Bone: Tall Tales, by Jeff Smith & Tom Sniegoski.

Little needs be said beyond:  “Look, it’s a new Bone book.”

If you know nothing about the Bone storyline, think: ‘Pogo meets Lord of the Rings’ and you’ll get a sense of both the epic scope of the adventure and the good-natured gentle humor and humanity of the series.   Everyday folks and forest critters go about their lives in a great big old dangerous world, until a great evil arises and threatens all.  A trio of small persons prove to have heroic import beyond their small stature (and despite a rapacious and cranky greed-headed immorality in the case of the irascible Phoney Bone).

This latest book is a side story of one-shot and throwaway tales.  The Ed Norton-esque Smiley Bone takes three lil’ Bone Scouts  on a camping trip accompanied by the rat creature Bartleby.  Smiley spins a few yarns at the campfire to keep them (and us entertained).

The book is primarily an excuse to tell a few more tall tales starring the Boneville folk hero Big Johnson Bone, a stump-sized Paul Bunyan figure.   Writer Tom Sniegoski  lets us tag along with BJB  in a pie eating contest; in love; on the day he was born.    Jeff Smith illustrates.  The usual hilarity and bluster ensues.

Jeff Smith is a master animator of still images, his characters have the unpredictable kinetic energy of a superball, a rubbery vigor, vitality, sense of play even sitting still.   Smith has the superlative sense of comix timing you find in newspaper strip grandmasters like Charles Schulz or Bill Watterson, but with the long-form story he has the ability to set up a punchline or pay-off pages in advance, in service to a longer story.  Teamed with Tom Sniegoski his characters meander through the tales with a folksy ramble.

The story reprints the Smith/Sniegoski pages from the earlier collection ‘Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures’  (recounting why the Rat Creatures have no tails.  Why?  So Big Johnson Bone won’t have nothin’ to grab onto, you see?).

Also included are a few pages from Tom Sniegoski’s forthcoming prose trilogy set in the world of Bone.  I’ll reserve judgment, I suppose until the book is published entire, but you know, suffice to say I’d be far more excited if I’d heard that Jeff Smith was scribbling out a new Bone Series in comics format.  His line is what makes them truly live in a way that ordinary fiction may find difficult to capture.

Bone: Tall Tales is appropriate for all ages.

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