Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #44: Bone #5 – Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith

Bone_Rock_JawThis installment of Bone begins with Smiley and Fone Bone on their trek to bring the baby rat creature to the mountains to reunite him with his clan of stupid, stupid rat creatures. Which I hate, because I want them to keep the rat cub because they could raise him to be awesome instead of the aforementioned stupid, stupid. (I’m not fond of the phrase, per se; it’s a “thing” in the book that the rat creatures make some really questionable choices and get called “stupid, stupid rat creatures” on occasion.) But it makes sense that they should probably get him back to his own people (I guess) and Jeff Smith thinks so, too, so we begin the book there. Also, Phoney has named him Bartleby. Because adorable.

So the boys are running out of food on the trail to the mountains and while taking a nap (well, Smiley and Bartleby take a nap while Fone is reading his favorite book, Moby Dick, because of course.) the two quiche lovin’ rat creatures ambush them. While running from them, they run right into Roque Ja, the mountain lion Master of the Eastern Border. For the first few pages, I thought his mannerisms and speech made him seem remarkably similar in flavor to the dragon. Dry, sly, witty. But it quickly turns out that Roque Ja (or Rock Jaw, as the Bones start calling him) is not on their side. He’s on his side.

Meanwhile, elsewhere the possum kids are joined by the orphan menagerie (as I like to call ’em) Roderick and some forest animal kids whose parents were eaten by rat creatures. Sad. They try to help the Bones and Bartleby get away from Rock Jaw and wind up in a cave that turns out to be an old rat creature temple. Weird. They get ambushed again by the two rat creatures who then all get ambushed by Kingdok, and a chase ensues. However, we learn more about the magic of these parts (read: they’re on a ghost circle) and Kingdok may’ve been a locust hallucination. Y’know, like you do.

Once this all resolves, the rat creatures seem to be making nice and travelling with this madcap little brigade of travellers. They agree, for the sake of working together, to call a temporary halt to eating small mammals like the band of animal kids that make up a good 50% of their group. You know this can’t last long, but it’s heart warming to see. One of my favorite parts was when they decide to start moving again and Smiley sticks his head in one of the rat creature’s mouths saying, “Checking for small mammals. Anybody in there?” Made me giggle.

But danger isn’t far behind, this time in the form of Rock Jaw again. But then danger gets even more dangier when Kingdok shows up again. It’s unclear whether he’s real or a locust hallucination, but it seems he’s real because he and Rock Jaw are talking like Rock Jaw was planning to turn over the group to Kingdok. I’m sure he was thinking there’d be a reward, but turns out when you deal dirty with crooks you gets crooked. Kingdok lunges at Rock Jaw, the merry band of misfits tries to make a run for it…but they’re two short because the rat creatures have reverted back to their true nature and turned on them. Ruh roh. End scene. Er, book.

While there were some amusing parts, and I really love Bartleby and the orphan menagerie, I missed Thorn and the Red Dragon in this one. I kept wondering what was going on with them. I’m sure we’ll get back to them in the 6th book, but being an entire book without them felt weird. However, I loved seeing the rat creatures working with instead of against the main characters for once. I don’t know why, but I keep thinking they’d make good allies. Maybe it’ll go that way eventually. I look forward to finding out.

Advertisements

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #43: Bone #4 – The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith

Bone_The_DragonslayerIn this book of Bone, we find Thorn, Gran’ma Ben, and Fone Bone travelling to Barrelhaven, and speaking the Inn, the regulars there are slowly changing sides from Lucius to Phoney Bone. On the way to the Inn, Gran’ma gets a bad gitchy (it’s like a paralyzing bad feeling on overdrive…complete with cartoon head bubbles) and they get attached by rat creatures and Kingdok. Kingdok puts a hurt on Gran’ma, which upsets the hell out of Thorn, so she grabs a sword and goes all ninja warrior on him and cuts off one of his arms. GO Thorn! After the battle, Thorn learns more about who she is and what’s happening regarding an uprising with the rat creatures to free the Locust. Thorn gets a bit upset by all this. Understandable. First she finds out she’s a princess, that dragons are real, and now the Locust King’s might be freed…in a ritual that Thorn might be courted for to make happen. She takes off on her own with Fone Bone hot on her heels. They make it to the Inn…after getting through the barricade Phoney had the townspeople had put up.

See, Phoney has now managed to convince the townspeople that dragons are real…and that he’s a dragonslayer. He plays this against their fears, which means they give him lots of stuff to “protect” them. His logic is that since dragons are peaceful, he’ll have an incredibly easy time protecting them and is simply raking in the dough. (Literally in some cases, since the town uses a barter system that includes livestock and food as currency.) Somehow, a random toddler rat creature finds its way into town and Fone and Smiley adopt him (and name him Bartleby…adorable!). They know that rat creatures (no matter how adorable) and people don’t mix, so they come up with a plan to return the baby rat creature to the mountain to his “people.” Meanwhile, the townspeople have decided they want some actual results (re: dead dragon) from the “dragonslayer” they’ve been paying. When Lucius tries to talk sense into them and expose Phoney as living up to his name, the way Phoney turns it back on him is a frustrating yet effective exercise in shaming and manipulation. Phoney concocts a scheme to get out of town an also bring all his new riches with him by saying he’ll go out and slay a dragon, all the while planning to make a break for it and return to Boneville.

Because it’s Phoney, this plan doesn’t go…well, as planned. Things happen, like a dragon showing up and the townspeople urging Phoney to kill him, rat creatures coming to thank Phoney for delivering the red dragon right into their hands (and tied up, to boot!), Thorn getting near her Turning (I’m guessing a coming of age thing where she comes into her powers) and coming to help fight off the rat creatures…and then everybody sees that it looks like the town is one fire because the town is under siege. Oy.

This was a good installment in the Bone series. I loved seeing Kingdok’s arm getting cut off cause i can’t stand kingdok. Meeting the baby rat creature was a definite highlight. I’m glad to see he’s in book 5. Phoney’s infuriating, as usual, and I can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance because he just has to. Seriously. Also, the appearances of the red dragon were quite humorous. I love his snarky, classy aloofness. I picture him being voiced by James Earl Jones were a Bone movie ever to be made. Jeff Smith’s art style continues to amuse and intrigue me and I look forward to the next installment of this wonderful series.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #38: Bone #3 – Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith

bone-volume-3-eyes-storm-jeff-smith-paperback-cover-artThe third book in the Bone series gets darker, both in tone and literally in overall color of the story. Two of the main rat creatures are in hiding from their leader, Kingdok. Thorn’s having more nightmares and they’re longer and more detailed, giving her the better sense of her childhood, which Gran’ma Ben gets upset about because she subscribes to the Ignorance is Protected Bliss school of thought. The displaced Bones find themselves split up soon into the book. Smiley and Phoney go with Lucius into town to help work off the damage they did during the great cow race, and Fone decide to stay with Thorn. And therein the darkness begins.

Lucius and the boys get attacked by a herd of rat creatures on the road, Gran’ma Ben learns that Thorn has discovered meaning in her dreams, they get attacked by some rat creatures in the dark, and Thorn learns that she is actually a royal descendant. We learn that the mysterious hooded leader of all rat creatures answers to a strange dark matter, Lucius and Phoney make a wager about the loyalty of Lucius’ patrons and who can run a bar better. And lastly, Gran’ma Ben receives word that things have changed and they need to leave. So Thorn, Gran’ma Ben, and Fone pack up and set out to end book 3.

While this book gets a bit darker, it’s still by turns compelling and comical, and I really want to know what’s going on with the rat creatures and the hooded person, not to mention the nebulous, sentient blob. Curious, too, to see how things go down in the bar as it looked like the tide was turning for Phoney last we saw. And lastly, I can’t wait to see where Gran’ma Ben, Thorn, and Fone are headed. This story, like the others before it, is charming, mysterious, fun, and even when it gets dark, it’s still brimming with joy.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #37: Bone #2 – The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith

Bone The Great Cow Race scThe second installment of the Bone series finds all of the Bones, Thorn, Gran’ma Ben, and Lucius back in town to get ready for the titular Great Cow Race. Fone Bone is incredibly happy that he gets time with Thorn, until she says she’s in the market for honey…and a cute boy. It’s heartbreaking to see Fone Bone’s cartoon heart bubble actually break and therein is part of the magic of Jeff Smith’s characters, drawing, and writing. I just love these characters, even the ones love to hate, like Phoney Bone…

…Who is up to his usual tricks in this book, trying to fix the results of the Great Cow Race so he can walk off with all the winnings. He works pretty damn hard to get the townspeople to think that Gran’ma Ben is past her prime so people won’t bet on her but instead on the mysterious mystery cow (PSmiley Bone in a comically terrible cow costume). This way, when HE bets on her, he gets all the winnings. He wants Lucius to get in on the action by betting his bar so Phoney can win that, too, but the joke is on him when Lucius gets wind of what’s going on but does bet his bar…on Gran’ma Ben. (Phoney’s jaw hitting the counter of his makeshift bet booth is fantastic!)

Meanwhile, we’re learning more about Thorn’s dreams and that they’re more than likely based on the past. Also, that when she was a little girl, she drew the map the Bones found. With one of my favorite lines in the series so far (“Hello, small mammal.”), the rat creatures find Fone Bone writing “poetries” to Thorn and move to capture him. Fone Bone runs, and in the process, more rat creatures join in the chase and eventually the cows and the rats make one huge mammal melange of chaos. Through all the adversity, guess who wins the race? Gran’ma Ben, bitches!

All in all, it was an enjoyable installment in the Bone series and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a solid story, excellent art, and a good dose of humor throughout. Well, you know, anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #34: Bone #1 – Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith

bone-out-from-boneville-jeff-smithI read this graphic novel years ago and remember enjoying it, but I never finished the whole series. Since I still have a dozen or so books to read and review for this year’s Cannonball Read, I think this is the perfect time to read the series!

Starting with number 1, Out From Boneville, this series is so approachable for both kids and adults. The art style is beautifully playful and the writing is charming, funny, and believable. Well, believable for a world that has rat creatures that eat quiche, an aloof dragon, and an old woman who races cows (meaning she runs on foot in a race with the cows)…and wins. Oh, and these cute little bulby guys of the Bone species. They’re kind of like humans, but require fewer clothes to stay proper.

In the first book, we learn that Fone Bone and his cousins, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone were run out of Boneville (literally) because Phoney Bone very much lives up to his first name and swindled most if not all of their town. An angry mob ensued, leaving the three bones lost in the forest. Fone Bone gets separated from his cousins and then gets hit by a freak unilateral layer of snow. This keeps him in the forest longer than he’d hoped, but since he’s an adorable little scamp of a Bone, he’s made friends with the possums and her babies and a leaf bug. The leaf bug Ted tells Fone he needs to find Thorn because she’s smart and can help him. He eventually does find Thorn (and falls in adorable interspecies love with her) but she’s riding some seriously repressed memories and doesn’t believe in things like dragons. Even though she was kinda raised by them. Partly.

Anyway, Thorn realizes she can’t help Fone on her own and suggests that maybe her Grandma Rose can help, as soon as she gets back from town. (Which happens to be where Smiley.) Phoney Bone gets led to Thorn’s house, too, and Fone and Phoney have a semi reunion, but realize they need to figure out how to get home. And they need to find Smiley to do that. Grandma suggests a trip into town, and besides, she’s got a cow race to run!

Meanwhile, the rat creatures and their grand hooded evil dude/tte are after Phoney but I (and he) have no clue why. They try to ambush Grandma Rose and Thorn’s house but Grandma Rose kicks some serious rat creature ass. The dragon’s involved in all of this, so is a map to somewhere mysterious, and a bunch of unanswered questions. Since there are 8 other books in the series, I have a feeling I might not get the answer all that soon. That’s okay; totally enjoyable read with a few laugh-out-loud moments. Can’t wait to get to the next one!

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #88: Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith

Orphan Billy Batson lives in an abandoned building, when his life is changed completely. An ancient wizard grants him the ancient powers of seven legendary heroes and gods, and whenever Billy utters the magic word: “Shazam!” he turns into Captain Marvel (never named as such in the comic due to licensing restrictions), an adult superhero. Yet Billy went wandering to places he shouldn’t, and now there is an invasion of giant alien monsters, and scary talking animals calling themselves the Monster Society of Evil.

Can Billy Batson, his little sister Mary and their friend, the talking tiger Tawky Tawny prove that the sinister Doctor Sivana is in league with the Monster Society of Evil and up to no good? Can they remove the alien threat before the mysterious Mister Mind and the gigantic alien vessels destroy all human life on Earth?

More on my blog.