Bone: Ghost Circles


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Bone: Ghost Circles


  • Words: Jeff Smith
  • Art: Jeff Smith
  • Inks: Jeff Smith
  • Colors: Steve Hamaker
  • Story Title: Ghost Circles
  • Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic, Inc.
  • Price: $9.99

Dreams and nightmares clash as Scholastic unveils the latest volume of Bone to get the full-color treatment.

In the past few years, Jeff Smith’s Bone has gone from indie comic hit to international phenomenon. Both the black and white Cartoon Books and full-color Scholastic editions have sold countless copies and made just about every critic’s list of best graphic novels (not to mention this reviewer’s list of all-time favorite comics).

Ghost Circles is the seventh volume of Smith’s all-ages epic and marks a major turning point for the series. This is the point at which the world of Bone metamorphoses from light-hearted comic strip to full-blown high fantasy. After the cataclysmic finale of Old Man’s Cave, everything has changed. The once-peaceful Valley, formerly home to cute talking critters and humorously obtuse Rat Creatures, has been decimated. Invading armies, ancient religious orders, and the spreading evil of the Lord of the Locusts now take center stage, after lurking on the sidelines of previous stories. With the steady hand of a master applying his craft, Smith blends the innocence and wit of Disney-style characters with the mythic grandeur and mystery of The Lord of the Rings. The result is something wholly unique and wondrous to behold.

This change in tone is not without its sacrifices of course. Much of the charming humor and slapstick of earlier volumes is downplayed amid the dramatic struggles and portentous events. Depending on the reader’s taste, one may be longing for cow races and comedy rather than prophecies and war. Personally though, the later volumes of Bone are among my favorites. In Ghost Circles, we begin to see a compelling character arc for the Bone cousins as they face a newfound sense of responsibility. Each of the Bones must confront homesickness, conscience, and their own flaws as their new friends are threatened and the world around them begins to collapse. It’s precisely because we’ve grown to love these characters from their earlier humor-filled antics that we now care about them, not just as loveable cartoons but as people, and become invested in their story more than before.

The new coloring by Steve Hamaker in the Scholastic edition is appropriately subtle, never overpowering Smith’s elegant animation quality line art. There are no bright, gaudy colors or over-rendered effects, just a simple and subdued palette that supports and serves the tone of the story. And a grim story it is, at times. While it never loses its polished cartoony charm or eye-catching visuals, Smith’s art on this volume powerfully captures the sense of desolation and fear that the characters experience.

If you’re a fan of fantasy or of great comics that still hasn’t discovered Bone, I urge you to give the Scholastic editions a look. This is a series truly between the worlds of epic myth and American cartooning, drawing from the best of both.

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