cover image Mangaman


Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran. Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-547-42315-9

A clever idea%E2%80%94tossing a mangastyle boy into American graphic novel art, where the "proper" characters see his differences%E2%80%94is more successful artistically than textually. The obvious points are hit, beautifully illustrated by Doran: Marissa's a very popular girl who, bored, ditches her sports star boyfriend and starts dressing in costumes. (The ex is just this side of a date-rapist-in-training.) Ryoko is a refugee from a world where all the manga conventions are true. They fall in love, leading to images of him with literal hearts in his eyes, visible sweat drops (indicating passion), the janitor having to sweep up his speed lines, and so on. This is all expected, given the premise. The pacing, though, runs in fits and starts, and the book can't seem to decide whether it wants to be about in-jokes for genre fans, saving the world from generic monsters, or exploring high school culture clash. Once Lyga starts truly playing with postmodernism (a sequence where Doran excels, evoking Mucha), it feels as though he's run out of space for his goals, as well as descending into unexpectedly sexual and violent scenes. A longer book from an adult imprint might have been more successful. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Nov.)