I lost myself in the Bone 20th Anniversary color edition over Christmas. I’d discovered the series a few years back, after the original one volume black and white edition was published.
The last time I encountered Fone Bone and his friends was in 2006, when the original One Volume edition debuted. Previously, each of the series’ issues had been collected into (now somewhat hard-to-find) graphic novels. The One Volume, like many current editions of The Lord of the Rings, emphasized that Bone was one long story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end as the author intended. Even though Jeff Smith was publishing Bone for a good portion of my childhood, I hadn’t discovered it until I was well into adulthood. Still, I feel lucky that I was able to read the entire epic in one handy volume, without having to wait until the next issue to see what happened.
The story tells the epic adventure of three cousins who stumble upon a plot to unleash an ancient evil that will trap the world in a nightmare. There are many reviews of the series on the Internet, so this review will focus on the color one volume itself.
The book’s packaging surpassed my expectations in many ways. Although this book was priced at a hefty $150, I wasn’t entirely sure what the finished product would look like. Would Cartoon Books skimp on the package or would they spurge on luxury?
Still, I bought it because I’m a completist, and because I wanted to compare the color pages to the original black and white ones. Yes, I could have done this by purchasing all of the individual color graphic novels, but I like being able to consume huge portions of the story in one sitting (preferably with a strong cup of tea and a light snack). Plus, I’m quite lacking in shelf space.
I’m pleased to report that the book’s overall design does not disappoint. The book is housed in a sturdy cardboard slipcase, illustrated with memorable scenes from the series in bold color. The book itself is hardcover, with endpapers of the map of the Valley (very convenient if you’re trying to figure out where the intrepid heroes are traveling at any point in the story). Unlike the special edition Lord of the Rings hardcover, this isn’t a pull-out map, so readers will find themselves flipping back and forth.
I was also very pleased with the choice of paper: it’s a white, lush, semi-gloss stock, thick enough so you can’t see what’s printed on the other side, while allowing lush colors and bold blacks. The paper isn’t as thick as that of the Scholastic editions, but that’s to be expected with such a large book.
I was surprised to find that the books signatures are sewn—a rarity in today’s book production values. The signatures are glued to the spine, but the book lays flat to allow for comfortable reading without the spine cracking. For a book as large as Bone, this means you can read your one volume as much as you’d like without worrying about it falling apart at any second. For the amount of money it costs, this is a welcome surprise.
For those unable to read the entire story in one sitting, there’s even a light blue satin bookmark that’s been glued to the spine.
My one complaint is with the actual heft of the book; this isn’t a book you want to fall asleep reading (you might concuss yourself), but that’s to be expected. If you want something lighter, you might want to buy the individual graphic novel editions, which are available in paperback.
I also would have liked an index to quickly look up characters, events, and places. For a book that’s over 1300 pages, it’s practically a requirement. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through The Lord of the Rings without an index. In the book’s next incarnation, I hope Smith will make it a bit easier to search.
The book isn’t entirely error free: the two rat creatures, who are bent on eating the Bone creatures seem to trade personalities from chapter to chapter, probably due to errors in coloring (one is brown and the other grey). I only noticed this because one rat creature is obsessed with quiche and baking the Bone creatures into one, while the other thinks no self-respecting monster would bake its kill into flaky breakfast items. Still, I wonder if these really aren’t errors and whether the rat creatures are Smith version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are similarly interchangeable. In the end, this is a minor error, and didn’t spoil my enjoyment one fit (although the rat creatures are among my favorite characters).
A note on shipping: like all oversized books (the Calvin and Hobbes collection is a good example) this doesn’t seem to ship very well (at least from Amazon). Mine arrived a bit dinged up, but still readable. If you prefer a blemish-free copy, you may want to mosey down to your local brick-and-mortar retailer to purchase it. A note on Amazon customer service: it’s excellent. They allowed me to exchange my dinged up copy for a (less) dinged up one.
Overall, Cartoon Books did a marvelous job putting this together. Just make sure you tone your arms before you go hauling it around.