This week's guide to manga, recently released and backlist graphic novel titles.


1. Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP (Tokyopop). Sakura Kinomota, your basic 4th grader, stumbles upon the Clow, a book made up of a series of magical cards. When she opens the book, the cards are missing and she finds herself mystically deputized as a Cardcaptor, charged with finding the magic cards before their magic can do damage. Very popular manga and anime series broadcast on Kids WB! Network. CLAMP is a popular all-female manga team credited with bridging the gap between boys' and girls' manga in Japan.

2. Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse). The story of Ogami Itto, a Ronin or a masterless samurai, and his infant son, Daigoro, as they travel the roads of ancient Japan. Itto is a hired assassin who dispenses death and vengeance. While he's not exactly a good guy, his deadly missions often end up being for the good. 28 volumes and counting, this series is both popular and critically acclaimed.

3. Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi (Viz). Teen age martial arts expert Ranma is accidentally cursed while training in China. And what a strange curse it is. Whenever he gets splashed with cold water, he turns into a sexy female version of himself. Hot water turns him back into a guy. Most of the adventures and comedy in this funny gender-bending series revolve around Ranma and his fiancee, Akane, and a host of martial arts fighters interested in either Akane or Ranma's female self. The popular series has more than 30 volumes.

Recent Releases

1. Shutterbug Follies by Jason Little. (Doubleday). Scrappy 18-year-old Bee works in a photo lab and discovers pictures of a naked female corpse. Bee decides to check out the photographer and before long she's discovered an ever-deepening mystery involving a friendly cab driver, a cute but nervous boy photo assistant and the Russian mob. Little's lively story is enhanced by his beautiful, candy colored illustrations of New York City.

2. King David by Kyle Baker. (DC Comics). Baker combines gag-a-minute, pie-in-the face humor and formidable drafting chops in an accurate but comedically enhanced retelling of the story of David of Israel. In the Bible according to Baker, David is a smart-mouthed, harp-playing shepherd devoted both to God and to the crazy, homicidal King Saul. Wait until you see the way he takes out Goliath. Bible study has never been so hip.

3. House of Java: Volume 2 by Mark Murphy (NBM). The second volume of stories by Murphy highlighting the complexities and weaknesses of young men and women. Among the stories: a small-town girl lacks the courage to leave town; a man returns home after a divorce to discover a terrible secret; and a woman wonders why it's a "dis" to like a guy but not to love him.


1. My War With Brian by Ted Rall. (NBM). A morbidly fascinating memoir-in-comics detailing a bizarre, violent and inexplicable adolescent feud between young Rall and a weird and brutal kid named Brian, who makes Rall's life miserable for no discernable reason. Smaller and fearful, Rall is nevertheless equally cruel, devising violent counterattacks that send Brian to the hospital A strange and fascinating investigation into human character.

2. Stray Bullets by David Lapham (El Capitan). An awarding-winning iconoclastic series that follows a collection of cold-blooded thugs, hapless dope fiends and smart kids running away of bad homes. By turns violent, funny and poignant, Lapham's beautifully illustrated pulp crime stories feature irresistibly flawed, all-too-human characters.

3. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (DC/Vertigo). A very popular series about the Endless, a family of mythic cosmic beings governing the realms of Dream, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, Destruction and Death. The grimly ironic Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, leads his immortal siblings on travels among the human mortals of earth in stories that often follow the plots of Greek classics. Sometimes ponderous but also intimately written and affecting.

This article originally appeared in the November 5, 2002 issue of PW Daily for Booksellers. For more information about PW Daily, including a sample and subscription information, click here.