cover image Tuki: Fight for Fire

Tuki: Fight for Fire

Jeff Smith. Cartoon Books, $20 trade paper (162p) ISBN 978-1-888963-75-5

Smith (Bone) goes prehistoric in this fabulously drawn anthropological fantasy. Two million years ago, he imagines, multiple humanoid species coexist, from the diminutive Pithecine “Pithies” to looming, gorilla-like giants, but the balance of nature is breaking down as the ancestors of modern humans harness the power of fire. Tuki, a lone wanderer, sets out in search of a legendary superherd of bison and reluctantly picks up companions along the way, including a Homo habilis shaman, a trio of lost children, and the tiny but dangerous Kwarell. The band travels through a perilous world containing saber-toothed cats and buffalo stampedes, as well as a mystical “Hidden World” of gods, magic, and visions. If the story occasionally rambles along in Tuki’s quest, the characters and scenery remain consistently stunning to gaze at, page after page. A master of firm brush lines, dramatic chiaroscuro, and rounded, gently cartoonified figures, Smith creates a fully realized and researched prehistoric setting. The characters run, climb, fight, and forage through deeply shadowed jungles reminiscent of classic Tarzan artist Jesse Marsh. A generous appendix features notes, sketches, science, and bonus pages offering a view into Smith’s creative process. Fans of classic adventure will not be disappointed. (Dec.)