Bone Orchard: The Passageway Challenges the Reader

An intriguing and unique start.

When I write reviews, I try to say positive things about the books I review because I know how hard it is to make comics and that there are hard-working people behind them. Does that mean I like everything I read? No. I don’t talk about it because if I don’t connect with a book, I acknowledge it is not for me and move on. From a writing point of view, the words don’t come out. And I won’t force myself because it won’t sound organic.

The first time I read this book, I was close to not reviewing it because I didn’t understand it. The art is fantastic but abstract at moments, and I didn’t connect with the story. I felt lost. Fortunately, I decided to give it a second read. And then a third one. And I understood what was happening in the story, who is who, the symbolism, and the hidden details. After that, the words started flowing.

Bone Orchard: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, David Stewart, and Steve Wands | Image Comics

Bone Orchard: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart, and Steve Wands is the first of three (announced) books, starting the Bone Orchard Mythos. In it, we follow John Reed, a geologist sent to a small island where a mysterious hole appeared in the land. On this island lives Sally, an elder woman who hasn’t left the island for 25 years. John will investigate the phenomenon to determine the reason for its appearance and if it could compromise the island’s integrity. But, as you probably expected, there is much more to it, including connections to John’s traumatic past, Sally’s identity, and more. Much more.

This book plays with the fear of the unknown. There are so many questions that torment John and the readers. What lies in the depths of this hole? Why did it appear on this almost deserted island? And how would someone feel if they were trapped on this island, with a stranger that hasn’t left the place in 25 years and no one else? Oh, and no signal, so you can’t call for help if anything bad happens. It is a horrible situation.

Bone Orchard: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, David Stewart, and Steve Wands | Image Comics

As I mentioned earlier, the art in Bone Orchard: The Passageway is marvelous. Each character looks unique. The colors are on point, and the page spreads appear at the perfect moment. All of these allow the reader to experience the tense moments that John and Sally experience. And every panel matters: the details, the looks, the change in facial expressions, the background, everything has a reason to be, even if at first glance it doesn’t look like it.

I should mention this may not be the ideal story for new readers. As simple as the plot sounds, it is told in a complex way, with abstract art and few explanations. There aren’t many words on the pages, it is a rapid read, but because of this, you can feel like there is too much left unsaid. A second read, more paused and with attention to detail, helps a lot, but for beginners, it may seem hard to understand. I read this book a few times, and I’m not even sure I get it, but what I get from it is excellent. This is also the beauty of horror: it affects readers differently based on their experiences and perspectives. 

Bone Orchard: The Passageway by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, David Stewart, and Steve Wands | Image Comics

Also, the story begins and ends here. Like every horror tale, much is left for the reader’s imagination. But, as this is the start of a new universe, I’m hoping they take elements we see here and expand on them, as this story could potentially set up much more. I know this series will continue for the next few years, which is important to consider because maybe some things we don’t understand now will become evident as more stories are released.

In conclusion, Bone Orchard: The Passageway challenged me. It made me think differently. I had to struggle to read it, which I think is interesting, and few books are similar. This book isn’t afraid of telling the story it needs to tell, even if that means being complex in a time when there are so many comics out there that don’t require the reader to analyze each page. It was a refreshing experience, and I’m excited to see what’s next.

Just a side note, there was a Free Comic Book Day Bone Orchard story. If you want to know more about this universe and didn’t get the comic, you can find it free on Jeff Lemire’s Substack. It shares the style of The Passageway, both written and artistically. So if you like one, you will enjoy the other.

One reply on “Bone Orchard: The Passageway Challenges the Reader”

Hi please give us your version of events I thought it was great but still baffled. Was the lady in the hole his mother, what happened to her eyes were they eaten by crows before she was recovered, The brother says John took them ? and the family photo I’ve tried to fit a narrative did the kill there mother and is that who’s in the hole ??

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