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Bone: Quest for the Spark: Book One by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski

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Bone: Quest for the Spark: Book One by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski
Scholastic Graphix, 2011, 220pp.

From 1991-2004, artist Jeff Smith self-published the incredible black-and-white comic series Bone. It was then gathered into eleven graphic novels (nine for the main series, and two of associated stories), and recently has been re-released in color. However, there hasn’t been much new Bone material since the ending of the series seven years ago. Until now.

The other day I was browsing the YA graphic novels section at the wonderful University Bookstore, when I noticed a Bone title I hadn’t seen before. Curious, I picked it up to discover that what I now held in my hands was a novel telling a new episode in the world of Bone, illustrated by Jeff Smith and written by Tom Sniegoski (who also wrote the Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails volume of tall tales). Quest for the Spark: Book One is the beginning of a new trilogy of illustrated novels telling the adventures of a new Bone family.

For those of you unfamiliar with the original series, Bone tells the story of the three Bone cousins — white-skinned, Pogo-like creatures — who are run out of Boneville and flee across the desert. Upon entering the Valley, they are beset by a storm of locusts and are separated, eventually reuniting in the local village of Barrelhaven, here they are taken in by the mysterious Thorn. As their stay continues, they gradually become involved in the unfolding of a massive quest to save the world from the coming of the Lord of the Locusts.

Quest for the Spark opens a few years after the close of the comic series. Aside from Thorn and Gran’ma Ben appearing in the prologue and epilogue, and references to the original Bone cousins, the cast is entirely new. This time there is Tom Elm, the son of a turnip farmer who longs to be a soldier for the queen; Roderick, Tom’s talking raccoon; Randolf Clearmeadow, a washed-up has-been from the Veni Yan, the warrior priests; and Lorimar, an earth spirit; as well as three new Bones: Percival, and his twin niece and nephew, Abbey and Barclay, who have flown from Boneville in their flying machine looking for adventure.

All is not well in the Valley, however, as the spirit-realm, the Dreaming, is being infiltrated by the mysterious and evil Nacht. The citizens of the Valley are one by one falling asleep and being taken over by Nacht’s minions. The Dreaming has selected Tom and his companions to find the pieces of the Spark, the only weapon that can put a stop to Nacht.

This first volume tells the story of the group coming together and finding the first two pieces of the Spark. While there is a slight sense of completion in the first volume — it ends with the cast all coming together to seek the Spark — it is obviously only the first part of a much larger story.

Overall, though, I would have to say I was a bit disappointed in this first installment. Sniegoski seemed to be trying to capture some of the slapstick humor that the comics had, but it almost all falls down flat without the visual element. Also, Sniegoski’s characters were not consistent in their presentation, most especially Lorimar, who was sometimes mysterious and aloof, and at other times downright homey and familiar.

Of course, being a die-hard Bone fan, I’ll buy the entire trilogy, but if this book is any indication, Bone has not made a good transition out of the comics medium.

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