Rated: 2.5 / 5
This comic gets plenty of things right, primarily with regard to how to put the reader in the middle of things, not really holding their hand with a slow sturdy introduction into the world, its occupants, factions, and characters. You are plopped right into the immediate aftermath of an event, not knowing who these characters are, or the details of what happened. Which creates mystery. And if the mystery is interesting enough, the reader will stick around wanting to know more. Then you encounter a few more mysteries as the plot goes along, while others get wrapped up (or more wrapped than they were before). All the while getting more familiar with the central characters, and growing attached to them, and sympathizing with their plight.
In a sense, this sort of does what J.J. Abrams wishes he could do. A successful mystery box driven story. And these mystery boxes are integral to the backstory of different significant characters through the whole story. It’s not just a mystery box for mystery box’s sake, as they would be in an episodic-driven television show. They all add up to a cohesive story in the end. And it’s clear the writer knew the whole story from the get-go prior to setting stuff up. Hints were laid out early on that I didn’t even know were hints until later on when a main mystery box popped up. As in clues laid out before you realize they are a piece of a puzzle, because you don’t realize that puzzle exists yet. But it all comes together in the end.
Plus, this story had one moment of exposition genius in it. A life lesson that is relevant to today, with regard to society. A brief segment where they talk about the moral superiority complex one gains from victimhood mentality.
But then comes the bad stuff. There’s a character I absolutely despise in this comic. The granny. The tough-as-nails old lady who is so ridiculously strong it makes me sick. I fucking hate these one-(wo)man-army characters who just shouldn’t be as strong as they’re made out to be. She can take on an army of giant rats and win. She can go toe-to-toe with a giant lion and hold her own for a while. She can lead an army to victory while fighting on the front lines. She can win a cow race. She can do just about everything, and I was hoping beyond hope she would die by the end of the story. And of course she doesn’t.
I picked up fairly quickly that the best (ie strongest and almost always right) characters in this entire comic are women. In particular, 2 women (the granny and the girl she protects), discounting the almighty female dragon, and this other demented granny with a scythe. It heavily hints and feminism. But because this is primarily a 90s comic, the feminism isn’t shoved down your throat. It’s kept subtle (compared to today), but was still a bit of an annoyance.
Was hoping everything else would make up for it. And to an extent, it did. The story builds from something simple and light into something epic and darker. So basically your generic anime arc, with everything lighthearted in the beginning, until things take a dark and more sinister turn somewhere between the end of the first act and the start of the last act. And the story does get more and more interesting as things go along. The backstory and presence of the dragons, kingdom royalty, a mysterious hooded figure, the fate of the world (of course), etc. It gradually builds up to that after just being a simples tory of how these 3 Bone characters are to re-acquire some wealth and make it back into Boneville, once they gain shelter at this small village.
The problem is that it becomes difficult to take the threat seriously early on. With regard to these rat creatures. Because, despite their appearance, they seem incapable of doing harm to anyone. Granny is partly to blame for this, as she can wipe the floor with them so long as their numbers aren’t greater than a small army (and seems to have things well under control). But also because the Bones, and that girl Thorne, always manage to get away unscathed. It doesn’t exactly build tension. They need to be a threat that can be taken seriously. To be fair, they do become a bit more believable of a threat later on in the story, but for that first third they lose out on being a threat that can be taken seriously.
Eventually some people do get killed, including at least one important main (good guy) character near the end, but it’s too little too late at that point. The problem is that this story pulls its punches. And I don’t care if the intended audience is supposed to be children or adults, it’s still bullshit when punches are pulled like that. At least cause significant injury that leaves scars or permanent damage. Something.
All those issues were pushing me to the breaking point. But what finally broke me is the one thing I fucking dread happening in any fantasy tale like this. Pulling abilities out of your ass. Magical abilities, or some deus ex machina magical item that had no build-up until it needed to be used in a singular instance. Such as granting Thorne the ability to fly. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK!? This isn’t something that she was hinted at being able to do prior to this, never mind that this ability was only used once in the entire fucking tale.
Other than that, there were two characters who were done away with too easily, considering they had some amount of buildup (in one case significant buildup through a great portion of the story). This one mutilated guy who was running a fortress, who only had one arm, who seemed quite threatening, who had been through many battles in the past, just gets killed instantly the first moment he steps into battle (buy raggedy ass old demon-possessed lady no less). Plus how the issue of this big-ass dragon is resolved in the end. It’s like the writer just decided, “Uh, I’m not sure how to resolve this climactic moment, so I’ll just do this because it seems right, clear explanation be damned.” I mean, the author may have known where the story was going to go and how it was going to end, but it sure seemed like he was struggling to resolve a couple conflicts and deaths in a satisfactory manner (not to mention the mountain lion isn’t really given an epilogue, which it really should’ve).
In fact, the only individual whose full arc got satisfactorily completed, from when he’s first introduced to when he meets his demise, is this big-ass rat that gets its arm cut off early on. Out of everyone in the story, he’s the only one who had the most satisfying conclusion. A creature who does become a tragic figure when it becomes obvious in his final moments that he wishes for death because of what he, and his other rat creatures, have become when they became slaves to the main villain. In fact, he’s the only one that deal any significant blows to the protagonists. Aside from him, the only other character that I considered a serious threat in the story is that Roque Jaw lion, and that’s it. And yeah, they came off as bigger threats than miss demon possessed scarecrow.
And the last images of the comic didn’t really leave a good lasting impression on me. It went for a, “ho-hum, off we go as we have been normally since before all we began,” note to end the whole thing on. Rubbish.
There is fun to be had in this comic. And if I’m being honest, it was worth reading through the whole thing. There’s just too many flaws for this to be worth a significant purchase. I can’t in good conscience recommend this, because there’s better fantasy comics out there to read instead of this. Like ElfQuest.