Bone: Old Man's Cave

     Replace Frodo the Hobbit from. Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece Lord Of The Rings with Pogo (the comic strip) Possum. Now picture Tolkien's epic drawn by Will (The Spirit) Eisner. You have imagined Bone, possibly the finest comic book published today.

     Bone is an epic adventure of three odd little creatures who are chased out of town and separated until each finds his way into a valley filled "with wonderful and terrifying creatures". Those creatures are the remnant of two great peoples who, after having almost destroyed one another in war, are busy trying to finish the job.

     Layers of subplot, intriguing characters, believable dialog, perfect timing, and an eye for detail are what make this story excellent.

     As example, the visual focus in one scene shifts away from the conversation of two major characters until the reader is staring into the mousy face of a minor one. Without a written word, the reader knows this "bit" player will become important, and by his expression, owns a secret.

     The devil is in the details, and writer and artist Jeff Smith knows how to bedevil his readers.

     Equally flawless technique and singular style are what make Bone's minimalistic art excellent.

     Minimalistic simply means that no line is added that is not needed to visually tell the story. In itself, minimalism is no better than any other approach to storytelling. It is the mastery of every aspect of any style that elevates one artist over another.

     Smith has ridden the style elevator to the top floor. (Sorry, I know that's awful, but I could not resist.)

     In particular, Smith's use of big slabs of black or white in his panels is impeccable, adding contrast and mood in a way seldom matched by other cartoonists.

     Stripped to the bone, this comic book is entertaining, intriguing and exciting, and Bone receives my highest recommendation for readers of all ages.

     Review by Michael Vance

     Bone: Old Man's Cave is 112 pages and priced at $15.95. It's available as a trade paperback collection from Cartoon Books and is sold in comics shops and by mail.

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