Today’s Webcomics Wednesday requires a little backstory. When I was newly graduated from my MA program and deeply exhausted by a year’s worth of intensive reading, I couldn’t sit through another book if someone paid me. (Someone does now! Mission accomplished!) Except for comics, that is, and that’s when I first read Jeff Smith’s Bone, the comic that made me truly love comics. At Midwinter, when I met Jeff Smith for the first time, I told him that story—albeit much less coherently and with a lot more breathless gushing—and he graciously autographed my copy.
Smith excels at putting ordinary, everyday guys, who are just
trying to get by, in situations that force them to become heroes.
Since I’m such a fangirl, I’ve been on board the Tüki train since it left the station, but I wanted to give the story a chance to develop before I covered it here. By now, it’s in its third chapter and the plot is really jumping, so, coupled with my starry-eyed encounter with the man himself and the forthcoming tenth-anniversary tribute edition of Bone #1: Out from Boneville (available next tuesday, Feb. 24th), this seems like as good a time as any to get into the prehistoric world of Tüki!
In the midst of a massive drought nearly two million years ago, an early human, Tüki, is hungry. He scrapes together meals whenever he can, but monkey oranges rarely cut it; what he’s really after is some meat. Competition is fierce among predators on the savannah, and in Tüki’s pursuit of a satisfying meal, he encounters vultures and sabertooth tigers, none of which are worth crossing for an antelope carcass. Tummy still grumbling, Tüki meets an ancient, bearded neanderthal, who seems to promise some dinner. Instead, he puffs some magic dust in Tüki’s face, gets really spiritual, and relays a spooky prophesy about Tüki the Giant Killer.
According to the weird mystic, Tüki is on his way to trouble. With no tribe or family, Tüki has no allegiances to keep him in one place, so he’s begun to wander. And wandering is not okay. “Do NOT seek the ends of the Earth—that is the realm of the Gods and is FORBIDDEN to all two-foots! Beyond the three waterfalls, you MUST NOT GO!” demands the mystic. Skeptical Tüki is unmoved, though, and continues on his quest for something to quiet his hunger pangs. He sets his sights on a lone calf among a herd of buffalo, but instead of landing a meal, he stumbles upon the footprints of a little kid . . . followed by the humongous footprints of a monster.
Benevolent Tüki can’t let a little kid roam around the dangerous savannah on his own, so he follows the trail to a cave, where he finds not only the kid but a giant, odious monster. Once Tüki finds the child, he can’t help but also defeat the monster terrorizing his family and agree to take the little boy and his sisters under his wing as they begin their journey out of Africa.
Smith excels at putting ordinary, everyday guys, who are just trying to get by, in situations that force them to become heroes, and Tüki is no different. He starts out as a loner surviving as well as he can to a powerful, if reluctant, leader and rescuer of children. Smith cultivates an impressive sense of atmosphere from scenic splash pages while balancing neatly between realistic and cartoonishly exaggerated figures, all while inflecting the quest story with chuckle-worthy comedic timing.
With lush and pretty colors, added by Tom Gaadt, Tüki is a visual treat as well as an engrossing adventure. Tüki updates regularly, and if you’re lucky, your local comics shop carries single issues. Fans of Bone who ravenously completed RASL and are thirsty for more from Smith should definitely tune in, since there’s plenty of Tüki’s story left to tell.