BONE 25th ANNIVERSARY REVIEW: “Rose” is a prequel graphic novel to the “Bone” series, written by Jeff Smith (Rasl, Shazam! Monster Society of Evil) and illustrated by Charles Vess (Sandman, Stardust). It was published from 2000 to 2002. The book follows events in the past centered around Rose which lead up to her being crowned queen of Atheia. In these events, she is tested by dark forces in her training of her dreaming eye.
It’s taken me many years to purchase “Rose” and read it, as when I was collecting the “Bone” series, I made sure never to pick it up. Why? Because of the artwork. Although the story is written by Jeff Smith, I couldn’t stand looking at the pages. I was so used to Smith’s polished, structured style that I couldn’t imagine reading anything else. Now that I have grown, and read a few more graphic novels by different artists, I picked up “Rose,” and boy was it a treat! Before I get into the story, I want to first discuss the artwork, since I addressed it in my introduction. Charles Vess’ style of art reminds me of a Japanese painting. There’s soft lines, water-colored bases, and harsh text that looks written in. Though it’s an interesting style that soon grew on me, I’ll admit that it was hard to get used to. Vess represents this prequel story in the best way that he, or anyone, could. It was as if I was reading an old scroll of some sort, and that brought a deep meaning in itself. I do prefer Smith’s style, which explains why it took a while to ease into this book, though Vess did a great job in his own form. In fact, it made most of the novel often horrific in fights and “Bone” lore. Something about his style makes a lot of what is shown rough and scary. Not in the way that you’ll hide under the covers, but in the way that you’ll be startled. I was caught off guard at the amount of violence that was in this book towards the end. It’s mythological violence, so it feels like there is symbolism behind it, though it is still gritty, which I liked. Seeing Rose take on the big monster at the end was awesome, and the fact that Vess was ballsy in his drawings made it epic. To sum this aspect up, Vess’ style was a perfect fit for this story, which was interesting alone. Diving into the plot of this, I was hoping that Smith wouldn’t simply write what we already knew as readers of the books prior. Though it’s an original and engaging back story, reading a reiteration of it was not what I paid ten bucks for. Thankfully, this is an entirely new story, which is still connected to the “Bone” series while giving answers to questions I didn’t know I had. Without spoiling anything, this book essentially tells a story of how Rose took the throne, and the events that led up to that. It’s conclusion is ominous, though this novel didn’t really need loose ends to be tied anyway. The first two or three chapters were a bit slow to get through, but once Rose ran into the evil that is the Lord of the Locusts, things got interesting. It feels fresh to get a take of these characters in an older light; one that finds Rose to be young and innocent. She’s more vulnerable than Thorn was, though holding the same strength. Smith knows how to develop strong women leads to support, and I’d rank Rose amongst the greats. A hero with struggles is one to relate to, and Rose had a lot of problems to deal with. Seeing Lucius and Briar at this time was also a treat, as I got to understand the stories told in “Bone” while learning things that weren’t mentioned. It’s all relatively new material, and often absorbs a different genre than the other “Bone” books. In a way, it is its own thing, even though it has ties to the franchise. I wouldn’t mind if Smith made a series of prequel novels because of how rich this world is in stories. Typically, prequels don’t hold as much weight or interest as the present storyline, however “Rose” stands strong amongst the “Bone” series, hardly ever faltering. I would consider it an engaging read that any “Bone” fan would enjoy, being as how it uncovers more to the world. If you’re on the fence about picking it up, I’d persuade you to give it a chance; you won’t be disappointed. FINAL SCORE: 88%= Juicy Popcorn