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Getting graphic with teen reading

June 29, 2003

If there's truth to the old adage about pictures, words and their

comparative worth, graphic novels would make a heftier impact on

library shelves were their tales told solely in sentences. With their

reliance on comic book-style images, they're typically slimmer than

the average novel, combining the appeal of a visual narrative with

fast-paced action--a blend especially popular with teens.

The best of the genre includes "Kurk Busiek's AstroCity," starring

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such all-American champions as Samaritan, Winged Victory and

Crackerjack. In a departure from the angst of darker comic book fare,

Busiek creates a life-affirming world of fantasy and adventure where

underground trolls, time travelers and real-life superheroes reweave

the future.

The action is grittier and more atmospheric in Frank Miller's

"Daredevil Visionaries." In a volume that celebrates one of the comic

book industry's top talents, the stories star such bigger than life

characters as Kingpin, sovereign of the New York Underworld, and

Daredevil, attorney by day and urban vigilante by night.

With similar grit, Mark Millar reinvents comics' most popular

superhero team in "Ultimate X-Men: The Tomorrow People." In the

nonstop saga, humanity faces Homo-Superior mutants--a mysterious

sub-species with frightening powers. For readers who can't get enough

of the X-lineup, this one is sure to please.

There's humor as well as fast-paced action and lovable characters

in "Undercover, Underwear," the newest in Peter David's addictive

SpyBoy Series. In this episode, teenager-turned-super-spy Alex

Fleming faces Takematsea, Barbie Q, Madam Imadam and Slackjaw. As an

added plus, SpyGirl makes her debut.

A sheltered young girl is on center stage in Barbara Kesel's

"Meridian" series. Along with an intriguing story set in a fantasy

world where islands float through the sky, the four-volume set

features fabulous art by a team comprised of penciler, inker,

colorist and letterer. Library Journal rates it the best of CrossGen

Comics' four initial series.

For teens so inspired by graphic novels they'd like to create

their own, MAD magazine artist Christopher Hart reveals secrets of

comic book art, animation and joke-writing in four nonfiction

volumes. Check out "Anime Mania: How to Draw Characters for Japanese

Animation," his latest offering, for a crash course in the hugely

popular Japanese animation style of heavy shading, dramatic camera

action and fabulous special effects.

For more literary inspiration, as well as motivation for reading

assigned titles on school summer reading lists, teens can sign up for

"Get Wild ... Read." As participants in the 2003 summer reading

program for seventh- through 12th-graders, they'll qualify to win

books, T-shirts, movie and Boomers passes, and other prizes. Visit

any Newport Beach Public Library anytime before Aug. 15 to sign up.

* CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public

Library. This week's column is by Melissa Adams in collaboration with

Terri Wiest. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers

by accessing the catalog at www.newportbeachlibrary.org.

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