The Bone saga
starts in Boneville
, from which the three Bone cousin
s (Fone Bone
, Phoney Bone
, and Smiley Bone
) are forced to flee. We first encounter our heroes
in the desert
. A swarm of locust
s separates them, and we follow Fone as he tries to reunite with his family.
On his journey, Fone unknowingly awakens the Red Dragon, the guardian of this Valley that Fone has found himself in. After saving a family of possums from a group of Rat Creatures, Fone meets Ted the Bug and later Thorn Harvestar, who he immediately falls in love with. Thorn takes him to Barrelhaven to meet her grandmother.
Phoney later encounters the Dragon, and is saved from destruction by Ted the Bug. Ted brings Phoney to meet Gran'ma Ben, who brings him back to the house where the two cousins reunite. They later find cousin Smiley tending bar in Barrelhaven.
Together they learn of The Great Cow Race, in which Gran'ma Ben races all the cows in town (and usually wins). Phoney, con-man to the end, decides to find a way to throw the race.
Everything seems happy and idyllic. However, in the mountains, trouble is brewing. The Bones are being hunted by the Rat Creatures; specifically, they are looking to find 'the one with the star' (Phoney wears a shirt with a star on the chest) and to eat the other two (preferably in a quiche). A sinister-looking person in a hooded robe is starting to attract allies. The group returns to Gran'ma Ben's farm only to find it burned down...
This is the beginning of the comic book series Bone, by Jeff Smith. The tale is told of these three cousins and the Harvestar family and the troubles that plague the Valley in which they all live.
The saga starts out somewhat light, especially through the Great Cow Race. However, as you get sucked into the story, it turns slowly darker. It is, however, consistently funny. Starting at the beginning is somewhat necessary, since the events all build on each other; there are very few freestanding parts. Cartoon Books has been very good at keeping everything in print, though, so finding the first few issues (especially in collected form) should not prove too difficult.
The series started life as sketches Smith did in kindergarten, and they stayed with him through much of his adolescence. In college, the characters starred in a daily comic strip published in the student newspaper. But the idea never really took shape until 1991, when Bone #1 was published through Smith's own Cartoon Books. The series has since seen 44 issues in the Saga, two spin-off miniseries, several toys and statues, and was almost turned into a television series and feature film.
It seems hard to imagine an extremely engrossing series with characters as cartoony as the Bones, but the stories are very well written and hook you almost immediately. The detailed backgrounds draw you further into the world, and you actually stop noticing the contrast after a few pages. The simple style makes it seem like these are "kid's books", but much like a good cartoon, the storytelling works for those much older.