Alien Bones by Chris ‘Doc’ Wyatt and Chris Grine (graphic novel review).

When I was a kid, I read comics like ‘Tintin’, ‘Asterix’ and loads of others whose titles I can’t remember even though their spaceships and alien worlds are still clear in my memories. I loved the exploration, danger, sometimes difficult to understand plots and, most of all, the slightly creepy feeling of isolation those books could give you. The way they could trigger your imagination of being somewhere lost and forgotten, surrounded by history.

As a kid I would have absolutely loved ‘Alien Bones’. I mean, as an adult I can appreciate its humour, surprisingly-dark-if-you-think-about-it plot, polished art and refusal to talk down to its audience. But as a kid, I would have just been blown away by its story of alien worlds and dead civilisations, space battles, only slightly threatening bad guys and, of course, the dinosaurs.

‘Alien Bones’ follows a boy named Liam Mycroft, his friends Dianna and Rosa and his minder robot, Stan, as they embark on a journey which shifts from rescuing Liam’s dad to saving the entire human race. Along the way, they meet strange characters, defeat pirates, break into a museum and battle aliens, repeatedly using ingenuity and teamwork to overcome much bigger threats.

While every character gets some time in the spotlight this is very much Liam’s story, and it’s interesting that, in the same manner as ‘Tintin’, he really doesn’t go through any sort of character arc. Throughout the story, he comes up with plans and is always one step ahead of everyone else, but rather than being annoying I’m pretty sure that as a boy I’d have liked his resourcefulness. To balance this, while Dianna remains a little blank, annoyance-turned-ally, Rosa gets a lot of fun scenes.

This is very much one of those stories where the kids drive everything and the adults are farcical, mean, stupid or just plain ciphers. Even Liam’s dad has no personality traits beyond being proud of his son. The only ‘adult’ to make a mark is the robot, Stan, who gets a lot of the best lines.

The artwork and colouring are clean and clear, with a nice mix of fun close-ups and sweeping scale. I particularly like some of the framing tricks used, where one character remains still over multiple panels while the others move between them, giving an effective sense of action. There’s plenty of combat but none of it is overly violent or graphic, with badguys being flung through the air in comical poses.

I also liked the book’s wordiness and its willingness to casually throw around long, complicated words and deliver exposition through dialogue. Just two pages in and it’s using ‘until the intersolar commission on xenological nomenclature rules on it’. I suppose younger kids might struggle with some sections, but for them there are sequences with comedy pirates being chased by a tunnel of pooh.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I wholeheartedly recommend ‘Alien Bones’ for any kids that love adventure, action, aliens or dinosaurs. I enjoyed it as an adult, though it’s perhaps a little too straightforward when compared to other comics about a singular capable character such as Kamala Khan’s ‘Ms. Marvel’. But as a kid, I have absolutely no doubt this would have been my favourite book.

Stuart Maine

October 2019

(pub: 1First Comics, 2019. 173 page graphic novel. Price: $24.99 (US), £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61855-340-9) Ignore release dates given on the long river websites, it’s just come out.

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