It's mostly reprints, but this was the first time I'd seen any of this in colour. (It's a plus, for what it's worth. Jeff Smith's art is great, but it's not the kind of intricate black-and-white art that's damaged by colouring. He's not John Ridgway. Colour makes his simple lines a little easier to process.) Anyway, all these stories are drawn by him and they are:
(a) SMILEY AND THE BONE SCOUTS (new, written by Jeff Smith) = Smiley and Bartleby take three small Bones on a scout trip in the woods. After putting up tents and eating an amazing sandwich, Smiley then tells the boys of stories around the camp fire. That's the framing story for everything else.
(b) POWERS THAT BE (reprint, written by Jeff Smith) = a Disney Adventures eight-pager that's also in my Complete Bone Adventures vol.3. Phoney Bone finds a treasure map. Oh dear.
(c) BABY JOHNSON VS. OLD MAN WINTER (new, written by Tom Sniegoski) = immediately after being born, Big Johnson Bone punches Winter in the nose, then kills and skins a bear. Yes, despite being a new-born baby. He also says his first word.
(d) BIG JOHNSON VS. THE COBBLER GOBBLER (new, written by Tom Sniegoski) = an eating contest.
(e) THE ADVENTURES OF BIG JOHNSON BONE (reprint, written by Tom Sniegoski) = I reviewed this in Stupid, Stupid Rat-tails.
...but sorted in order of my personal preference:
1st = Smiley's framing story, which is time-wasting fluff... and of course lovely. It's impossible not to smile when wasting time with these characters. I go all gooey even at something as simple as Smiley and Bartleby exchanging a grin at the end. (I wish Thorn was still part of the Bones' lives, though.)
2nd = the Fone/Phoney reprint.
(BIG GAP, TAKING US PAST SMALL AMOUNTS OF PAIN)
3rd = The Cobbler Gobbler, which actually sort of works. Big Johnson isn't going on heroic adventures or anything, but instead is simply participating in a stuff-your-face-stupid competition in his banjo-twanging hillbilly hometown. (Smith's realisation of this community is a hoot.) The local girls like him. They should drown themselves for the sake of the gene pool. Nonetheless, though, there's fun to be had here with the Mystery Competitor's identity, Big Johnson falling in love and a superhuman fart ending.
4th = the reprint from Stupid, Stupid Rat-tails. I still don't like it, but this collection does it one big favour. Then, I didn't think we had enough context to buy the unreliable narration. Here, though, it's Tall Tale #4 in a collection called Tall Tales, presented as a dream story-within-a-story alongside a bear-killing baby and a fart that can blow you to the moon. Yeah, that's enough context.
(LARGE AMOUNTS OF PAIN)
5th = I hate that baby. His mother's cute and there's a wonderful moment of whimsy when Smith draws him flying through the air, but nonetheless this story repels me. Even for a tall tale, there are limits. That new-born baby's exploits are so stupid that they break my ability to believe in this story even as an in-fiction story.
I'm glad I bought this book. It has more Smiley and Bartleby. I won't reread the Big Johnson pages.