Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith
Graphix, 2007. 978-0439706360
Synopsis: Trying to return a rat creature cub to the mountains and the rest of the hairy men, Fone Bone and Smiley Bone encounter more trouble than they bargained for. First, they are captured by Roque Ja, Master of the Eastern Border. Then, after escaping from Roque Ja, they meet up with a group of orphans whose parents were eaten by the rat creatures. When they are recaptured by Roque Ja and taken to the rat creatures for a reward, another fight erupts between Kingdok and Roque Ja. Is there no end to the trouble?
Why I picked it up: I’m loving this series more and more – why WOULDN’T I keep going?
Why I finished it: I’m going to take a moment to talk a little about why this series has earned such a special place in my heart and on my shelf. I’ve mentioned before that on its surface, Bone doesn’t look like anything more than a kid’s comic, owing largely to the bright color scheme and the cartoon-y nature of its main characters. But the more I read, the more my sense of there being more to the story is confirmed. These characters are so much more human than we initially give them credit. They are hurt, confused, betrayed, jealous, flawed individuals that have found themselves thrust into a situation that no one could have ever seen coming. And really, we wouldn’t have it any other way – it makes characters more relatable when a reader can see them struggling, rather than having things just sort of handed to them. Smith has found a way to create a sort of universal humor that can be appreciated by all readers, not just the younger teens to which the series is marketed. The plot has a lot more to it than just being about a war between the inhabitants of a valley; there’s clever commentary on blind fanaticism, politics, love, friendship, and stereotypical misconceptions. Granted, this isn’t going to be picked up by every reader who finds this series, but it’s a nice little undertone that manages to weave itself into the plot without overwhelming it. It’s funny, sweet, a little violent, and mysterious: everything that makes a great story that generations will be going back to again and again. I’m impressed by Smith’s skills as a storyteller and his ear and timing of dialogue that help fuel the story page after page, panel after panel. And really, if you can’t appreciate what is being done with the story, appreciate the art and the effort it takes to put something like this together. It takes a master story teller to labor over a story and unfold it with near precision the way Smith is doing, and I don’t say that about too many things I read, regardless of how much I enjoyed them. In short, it’s everything you want a fantasy comic to be.
Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel