Few romances hit harder than the first crush: powerful, inarticulate, star-crossed, lighthearted, tragic and melodramatic. Fone Bone’s puppy love for Thorn feels authentic, one of the many triumphs of Jeff Smith’s Bone. In a medium jammed with women in refrigerators, Fone’s crush is refreshingly innocent, whimsical, charming and doomed.
She’s a tough but sweet human girl with a mysterious past. He’s a Bone from Boneville: three-foot tall, completely white creatures, whose heads and noses are, proportionally, two melons of equal diameter. Though he’s nearly always naked with the exception of gloves or mittens and a paper bag looking snow hat, it’s not even clear that Fone Bone has genitalia, a serious hurdle for any couple. It’s much cuter than it sounds.
Thorn is cool, intelligent, beautiful, friend who’s always there for you, but also unattainable. Jeff Smith renders earnest scenes, like Fone first checking out Thorn’s legs or acting like an idiot when he’s jealous. As the story charges into the second act, a higher stakes love story swallows Fone’s crush, the way growing up does. When you’re leading a fight against stupid, stupid rat creatures, there’s no time to be bored to death by the merits of Moby Dick (Fone Bone’s default topic of discussion, and a book of infinite merits).
It isn’t that Thorn is out of Fone Bone’s league; they simply weren’t meant to be. Destiny steps in, albeit after Fone’s crush on Thorn grounds the series early on, bridging the gap between the cartoonish Boneville and the Valley. Like the rest of Bone, Fone’s crush is played real, earning its chuckles via the characters. Readers identify with the little guy’s predicament, providing levity for the story and emotionally connecting them to Fone, even if they are probably wearing clothes, most of the time.