Trading Up: Bone - Rose

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Scholastic reissues the origin of Granma Ben in an edition that will look smart on the shelf next to their recolored volumes of Bone.

Bone is everything it is hyped to be. It is charming, funny and epic. A masterpiece. Rose, the prequel, not so much.

It is not bad. It mostly suffers from a case of the different. Bone is the smart action epic, while Rose is the brooding fantasy piece. As back story for Bone, it is successful. It fleshes out the character who has aged quite a bit in the longer series. Much is explained about her relationship with the Red Dragon and a little more detail into the conflict with the rat creatures is given. None of this is particularly necessary to make Bone a better story. It’s great for completists but hardly required reading.

The second problem with the book is the pacing. The first half of the book meticulously introduces the characters and like most B-level fantasy spends way too much time setting the mood of the piece. While it is ably executed, it is horribly slow.

The second part of the book is a different story altogether. It is relentless in its action and intrigue. The only significant problem, once Rose goes after the evil dragon, is that the identity of the shadowy human villain is a bit obvious.

Vess’s art is just as mixed a bag as the story. He is the go to fantasy illustrator. The guy who Gaiman entrusted with Stardust. The guy who brought the creatures of A Midsummer’s Night Dream to life in Sandman. When left to his own devices he is untouchable. Here he creates lush landscapes and fabulous armies. His recreation of the Red Dragon and the rat creatures is almost identical to Smith’s. The personality of the characters comes through and extends to the pair of dogs that serve as companions to the female lead.

As with the story there are a couple of significant problems with the art. In fact, the script causes one. Pacing. In the first section of the book, so much of the art consists of panel after panel of people talking. They don’t do anything, they don’t even seem to blink or shift their feet. They just talk and talk and talk.

The second is the design for Rose and her family. It is purely aesthetic, but in trying to make the young Rose look like she could age into Ben, Vess creates what appears to be the children of a human and E.T.

In the end, it is ironic that the story firmly based in fantasy would be less magical than the whimsical Bone. Rose doesn’t diminish the base story’s greatness, but it doesn’t quite add up to a compelling read on its own. However, it will tide the time until we see those new Bone stories next year!

The Graphix Edition of Rose is available now for $10.99!

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  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Aug 19, 2009 at 8:29pm

    Wow. Disagree. I love Rose. No, it's not on the same level as Bone but what is? Granted, my view of this miniseries may be biased by how excited I was to learn the backstory. But it really does add a whole other dimension to Bone. I see Gran'ma Ben differently after meeting her as a young princess. I see the Hooded One differently after getting a glimpse of her as human and what led to her transformation. Lucius takes on another element due to the short-sighted mistakes he makes in this story. Even the rat creatures/hairy men have more depth. You may feel Rose is flawed or unnecessary but it does make Bone a different, more enriched reading experience. At least to me.

  • CA3

    CA3 Aug 27, 2009 at 7:06am

    I haven't picked up any issue of Bone, but with all this talk about it, I guess I should look into it.

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