I enjoyed this first book in the Bone series. The artwork is top notch, rendering playful and funny scenes of a dragon hiding in a well just as deftly as ominous ones involving plagues of locusts or sinister rat creatures. The three Bone cousins are really cute, but they remind me a little of albino smurfs. And I do not like Phoney Bone at all. He is one of the most unsympathetic cartoon characters I've ever encountered. Maybe he grows a bit as the rest of the series progresses, but I really don't care for him at all by the time the first volume concludes.
My favorite minor characters were the three possum babies that Bone sometimes babysits, and the sinister rat creatures who are always so politely arguing about whether to eat Bone in a stew or a quiche. I like that the book had so many interesting stories within the confines of the main story. And I like the drawing where winter descends on the valley in a big thwump. (You can tell Jeff Smith lives in Ohio!)
I liked the whimsical nature of the story, I liked the idea of Bones, and I liked the artwork. So why am I not giving it a higher rating? I think it is because I don't care much for Thorn, who seems to be important beyond her merits in the story. I don't mind having a pretty human girl drawn in, but it never seems like she has anything to do to advance the plot except for bathing in the stream. I do think it is adorable how Bone trails little hearts in his path whenever he sees her, but that's not really enough to make her constant presence for the last half of the book worthwhile. I also felt like the conclusion of this volume was a bit lackluster. I know that the comics medium is big on cliff hangers, and that any ending is still going to leave it a bit in the middle of things, but although the Bones are reunited by the end of this story, it seems like there are far too many unanswered questions about everything else.
It might be better to read Bone all in one large volume than to read this one and be left with all the dangling plot lines stretching off to the horizon.