Here’s part three of my read-along of Jeff Smith’s Bone series, Eyes of the Storm.
Fallout from the previous volume, The Great Cow Race, continues. On the comedy end of things, Phoney and Smiley go to work for Lucius at the Barrelhaven Tavern. The trio en route are soaked by a sudden storm, and Smiley manages to save their lives from a horde of rat creatures looking for Phoney by driving the cows they are riding off a cliff into a river.
Smiley is the type of guy who does that and probably asks to do it again. He does keep repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet?”
Meanwhile, Fone is having dreams of himself in Moby-Dick. He’s Ishmael, Phoney is Ahab, and Smiley is about the friendliest-looking Moby Dick you can imagine. Now the dream is where the choice of that particular novel makes a bit more sense to add to the overriding story that is Bone. Melville’s book may on the surface look like a simple adventure involving a ship looking for a particular whale that the obsessed captain wants dead at all costs, but there’s a bit more going on than that. It’s a real downer of a book, with the novel ending with only the narrator Ishmael alive to tell the tale. Man does not win against nature. Fone in the dream is left floating on a coffin while Smiley pulls the ship away with Phoney still onboard.
Symbolically, that has a lot to do with Phoney’s continual use of Smiley as a henchman going wrong on him.
But Bone is not a depressing story. Quite the opposite. What can keep Fone’s dream from getting too dark? How about seeing a giant-sized version of the red dragon’s head rising out of the surf behind him.
Oh, and the dragon knows all about Fone’s dream.
Gran’ma says the dragon knows better than to do that.
So, dream visitation can happen. Its happening to Thorn, too, as the hooded figure tries to lure her away for some reason.
There are more hints as to why the dragon is a problem. It’s not for something he did do, Gran’ma Ben suggests, but for something he didn’t do, and for that, Gran’ma is furious at him.
At the end of the volume, the truth finally comes out. After the dragon saves Fone, Thorn, and Gran’ma from a horde of rat creatures, Gran’ma explains that Thorn’s dreams of dragons and hooded figures abandoning her when a fight breaks out aren’t dreams, but memories. Gran’ma Ben was a queen, Thorn is a princess, and two of the other hooded figures from Thorn’s memory-dreams are her parents, the king and queen of a kingdom destroyed in a war with the rat creatures.
This volume allows the story to take a turn for the more serious. Gran’ma kills a rat creature at one point somewhere off-panel, correcting Fone when he seems shocked that this “isn’t Boneville”. In a weird way, it reminded me of the moment Wolverine became an effective member of the X-Men. Originally, Wolverine would run into any battle head first and get knocked out almost immediately. Then, one issue, he killed a nameless guard off-panel, and after that he started to become the character most people would recognize. Gran’ma here kills an anonymous rat creature. We knew she was tough and capable, but this is the first time she’s seemed legitimately lethal. Her encountering Thorn and Fone in the barn comparing notes, standing there dripping wet and glowering, makes the usually jolly old woman a sinister figure if just for a few pages.
I have to wonder about that. While the Bones in their design are basic and highly expressive, useful for slapstick humor and pathos at the same time under Smith’s talented pencil, why did he use the Bones? That’s a story I’d like to know.
Last week, I wondered why people might be willing to give Smiley a pass despite being a part of Phoney’s schemes. This volume offered an answer: when Lucius and Phoney make a wager over who the better bartender might be, Smiley at one point finds a way to beat both of them. Of course, his method involves giving out freebies, but that’s squashed as soon as Phoney realizes there’s no profit to be had in free beer.
Lucius’ own past also comes into light. He was once engaged to the most beautiful woman in the valley, but it fell through. A different hooded figure shows him a medallion he seems to recognize. And he doesn’t seem too pleased when Phoney suggests he is a dragonslayer who can take out the dragon the valley folk didn’t know existed up until then.
In fact, this looks like a good place to stop since the next volume is The Dragonslayer.