“Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border”

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BONE 25th ANNIVERSARY REVIEW: “Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border” is a collection of five comics written and illustrated by Jeff Smith (Rasl, Tüki: Save the Humans) and published on September 1st, 1998. This colored version was published in February 2007 by Scholastic, with the colorist being Steve Hamaker. Stepping away from the perspective of Phoney Bone and the citizens of Barrelhaven, this graphic novel delves into Smiley and Phone Bone’s delivery of Bartleby into the mountains so he can rejoin with his clan of rat creatures. However, Smiley grows too attached to Bartleby, sending the Bones on a path of danger involving a giant mountain lion.

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“Rock Jaw” seems to be the odd book out of the bunch. Focusing on Smiley and Fone Bone’s trek in delivering the rat creature cub, this story tends to look more as a break-away from the constant action than it is a providing factor to whatever endgame this series has. One may even go on to say that this book is essentially nothing but filler. Although this graphic novel’s sole purpose is to give reason to where these characters were at when the action started elsewhere, I would argue that it doesn’t represent filler, but rather a different perspective on learning the legends surrounding Atheia and Thorn’s destiny. Taking place in a different part of the land not seen before in the other novels, Fone Bone and Smiley run into all sorts of trouble, ranging from the giant cat that is Roque Jaw to the stupid rat creatures. A lot of the dialogue that takes place, mainly amongst the orphaned animals, is simplistic and for entertainment sake rather than progressing the overarching story, but as I read I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. All of the characters introduced in this book come to a head in the climax, making all that was building up to the moment worth it in this plot’s context. The best parts had to be them running into an ancient temple and learning more of the dreaming world. Most of this book was rather straightforward, with nothing too shocking, but once the animals revealed more about the dreaming world I was taken aback. I completely forgot about some of this information, so reading it once more in the unknown was great. The dreaming world really tricks your mind, and Jeff Smith paints this picture fantastically when he makes it hard to trust anything that is right in front of you to be real. It is in these moments that save the book from being filler, besides the entertaining moments amongst the characters. The two rat creatures I enjoy reading get thrown into the thick of the Bones’ mess, and seeing them work together was funny. One of the characters that made this read really interesting though was Roque Jaw. His philosophy and logic was intriguing and different from the rest of the figures we’ve seen in this story, and his design was simply awesome. A huge mountain lion who believes that everyone has to pick a side in anything was fresh and new; I liked studying his character, though I don’t think that we will see him again in the books to come. Being the shortest graphic novel of the bunch, there wasn’t a lot to produce in the pages it was given, though I did take a lot from it. Sure, there was a good amount of filler, as we are away from the action taking place in Barrelhaven, but I can say with full confidence that this isn’t a waste of a read. It is entertaining and chock full of characters to take joy in looking at, as the artwork is still amazing. On top of that, we delve further into the mythos of “Bone,” so that is always a win in my book. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn

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