Reed Books: Bone Series

Jess Reed, Editor

Winning dozens of awards both domestically and internationally, Bone by Jeff Smith is widely regarded as one of the most successful contemporary graphic novels, managing to marry simplistic character design with dynamic plot and artwork. The Bone brothers are small, simply drawn creatures who, after getting lost in the desert, stumble into the lives of a human girl, Thorn, and her grandmother. The story turns fantastical but retains a realistic sense of setting and character development.


The Bone series stretches nine volumes, but Smith manages to keep the plot interesting by balancing humor with surprisingly effective horror. The comedy aspect is more prevalent in the beginning of the series, but it doesn’t lose its charm even as the plot darkens. What sets Smith apart from most fantasy graphic novels, however, is the fear that he can evoke in the reader with black and white drawings.

The main antagonist of the series, a woman named Briar, commands locusts and rat creatures, appealing to the Lord of the Locusts. We see her exclusively as a hooded figure for most of the series, but her reveal is horrifying. Her face is sunken in and eaten away in places; she’s not just old, she’s basically rotting already. When she takes her hood off for the first time, she is surrounded fully by inky darkness, contrasting bone-white skin. This level of detailing adds to the horror. After generally simple character designs in the Bone brothers and the humans, this old creature is, indubitably, evil.

Overall, the Bone series deserves its hype. While I did think it stretched on for longer than necessary, the attention to detail in the black and white drawings is incredible.