By Dustin Cabeal
Sand + Bone isn’t that unfamiliar of a story. There have been some variations in comics over the years, and it goes like this, Iraqi’ Vet comes home and brings something back with him. In this case, it’s not an item, but something else that is fairly easy to figure out while reading the story.
The story follows Sean, who is back home from the war, but like some soldiers, he’s found it hard to come back. He’s on painkillers for his leg; we learn this when he tries to get a refill and runs into his ex who works as a pharmacist. It’s instantly clear that they have unresolved issues as a couple, but what’s great about Sean’s character is that he wasn’t looking for a reunion, just a refill. As the story goes on, we see Sean have more and more blackouts as he attempts to self-medicate, but whenever he gets too far gone he wakes up covered in blood and usually not his own. His ex, Hannah becomes more and more involved in his life and he in hers, which pushes the story to a new level and not in the romantic sense.
What saves Sand + Bone is the fact that it’s wonderfully paced. Even though I was able to see where it was heading, I still really wanted to follow its journey and see how writer J.T. Krul would get it there. The other decision that Krul made when crafting the story that ended up helping it was that he didn’t spend countless pages with the main character fighting in the war. It’s a plot device that’s been done to death in comics, movies, TV and so instead Krul and artist Andrea Mutti sprinkle in pages here and there in the form of PTSD.
Without spoiling what’s eating at Sean, I will say that this story reminded me of an 80s supernatural show that I would watch with my parents. In that sense, I found this tale very interesting and wanted to read more. There’s a natural conclusion to this first volume, but the story sets itself up to continue. This first volume is very much just a big reveal of what has happened to Sean. What will be interesting is seeing how he handles it going forward.
The dialogue is a bit clunky at parts, but mostly just with Hannah. She tends to say more than she should know or more than what the scene needs. Her dialogue is borderline exposition which is strange considering Sean narrates the entire story. Aside from that, Sean isn’t a likable character. I doubt he’s supposed to be, but Krul never sways the reader one way or the other. We’re left feeling indifferent about him as a character and more interested in his predicament. That works for now, but some development to his personality needs to ring through so we can either love or hate this guy, right now you feel a little sorry for him, but only a little.
Mutti’s artwork is some of their best. A lot of that had to do with the coloring which used a lot of muted tones but avoided being heavy handed on the reds and browns. The characters are very detailed, consistent and fit the world the story is set. Mutti is very active in showing rather than telling, which is what also makes Hannah’s exposition bursts so strange. Overall there’s some strong visuals, particularly the last page which was a visual way of expressing the feeling of leaving the war but still carrying it with you.
Overall Sand + Bone is an interesting start. It’s well-plotted and paced, with great art to accompany it. It misses in some important places like character development and dialogue, but it’s entertaining enough to recommend for fans of the supernatural genre.
Sand + Bone
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Andrea Mutti
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