Boneyard, Volumes 1-7
Written and Illustrated by Richard Moore
Published by NBM
I’m trying to figure out how to use the words “Monster Decadence” to describe Boneyard without sounding mean about it. It’s a wonderful, fun, involving series, but there’s an element to it that reminds me of the problem with having Speedy beat crooks up with a dead cat or Guy Gardner vomit blood all over the cover of a comic. I’m not suggesting that Richard Moore’s done anything wrong – it’s his series, he created it; he can do whatever he wants with it – but on its surface Boneyard appears to be simply a cute story about an unlucky everyman who inherits a graveyard full of funny monsters. There’s something very Bone-ish about the concept and kids would love the creature designs and giggle at some of the jokes. But it’s not a kids’ book. At all.
Again, I’m not faulting Moore. He’s got an appealing, humorously animated drawing style, but it would be foolish to suggest that he should tone down his writing because of that. On the contrary, it’s very cool that he’s been able to create such a grown-up story with such attractive, endearing characters. And as much as I kept thinking, “My son would love this if only…,” Boneyard is a whole different creature from “adult” superhero comics.
This is ironic since Boneyard is a monster comic, but it’s nowhere near as bloody or violent as the Superhero Decadence crowd of books. What puts it out of kids’ reach is mostly its playfulness about sexuality. There’s plenty of cheesecake, but nothing graphic; just good, naughty fun.
And the themes can occasionally get heavy, like when we learn why Nessie the gill-woman is so promiscuous. She’s such a light-hearted character that the darkness of her back-story is surprising, though not nearly as surprising as how tenderly Moore relates it. He’s masterful with the way he switches from laughter to tears and back again, but it’s not a transition that most kids are going to be able to make.
As I said, Boneyard is the story of a young man who inherits a cemetery. Michael Paris hasn’t had a lot go right in his life, but things begin to look up when his grandfather leaves him the graveyard and a nearby town makes him a very generous offer to take it off his hands. It’s when he travels to the town to close the deal that he realizes his bad luck is holding true. The boneyard is full of creatures who make their home there: a couple of gargoyles, a leather-jacket-and-shades-wearing werewolf, a lecherous skeleton, a sarcastic raven, a Cockney witch, a megalomaniacal demon, and – most importantly for Paris – a kind and beautiful vampire named Abbey. She and the others convince Paris not to sell to the pitchfork-and-torch-wielding townspeople; a decision that sets one of Boneyard‘s two, continuing plots into motion.
Over the course of the seven books, the forces that want the graveyard (I won’t spoil who it is, but will just say that the townsfolk aren’t the ringleaders, but only tools) try various schemes to get what they want. The other, over-arching story is the sweet, will-they-won’t-they romance between Paris and Abbey. That kind of thing can often be frustrating and annoying, but Boneyard avoids that by making it clear that Paris and Abbey do truly like each other; they just can’t get past their own insecurities enough to express it. It’s obvious that they’ll end up together eventually; Moore’s just coy about the when and how.
The nice thing is that Paris and Abbey are both so likable that it’s easy to wait for them to get their act together, knowing that seeing them do so will be worth the delay. And it’s not like Moore asks readers to twiddle their thumbs as they’re passing the time. Each volume moves the series’ story ahead while also presenting a complete story of its own. For instance, one volume is about the monsters’ trying to raise money to pay off the graveyard’s debt by publishing a swimsuit magazine. Others feature various threats to the cemetery like a zombie attack or a chainsaw-wielding serial killer.
By the end of Volume Seven, one of the two meta-plots is resolved. That the other isn’t speaks well of the likelihood that Moore will return to the series. He put it on indefinite hiatus after Seven, but I’m hoping he feels the itch to return to it soon. I’m already anxious for Volume Eight.
Discussion Questions: What’s your favorite monster comic?