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MangaMan is the first graphic novel that I’ve run across that I have to place in a new category meant for books that aren’t particularly great as a whole, but one element of them stands out and is worth looking at.  MangaMan was written by Barry Lyga, illustrated by Colleen Doran and published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (which is bizarre considering there is some light sexual content involved).

Summary:

Ryoko, a manga style character from the second dimension, comes through something called the Rip, into what most people would consider the real world.  Here he meets Marissa Montaigne, a once-popular high school student who has become jaded about her lifestyle.  Elsewhere, kaiju monsters are threatening to come through the same Rip and Marissa’s ex Chaz is threatening to harm Ryoko.

The Bad:

The plot is rather asinine, stupid, and formulaic, offering nothing of note outside of the brief moments mentioned in the upcoming The Good section. The characters aren’t given time to develop and consequences don’t have a great deal of weight due to Ryoko’s cartoonish nature and generally bad writing.

 The Good:

The Rip that I referred to earlier is actually the gutter space in between the panels.  Ryoko is capable of noticing these because he’s a two dimensional character and can reach into a new panel to jump forward in time and space.  This provides some degree of commentary on how comics work for beginners. There is a cool sequence where we see Marissa learning this technique because she too comes to realize that she is a character in a comic book.  Where this book really fails is its inability to actually explore this concept, or give it its proper weight.  Marissa adjusts pretty quickly to the fact that she’s a fictional character, and the author’s role in this is conveniently left out.   One of the books I want to write and illustrate in the future will feature characters that can manipulate panels, break the fourth wall, consult the author, and find individual agency in the reader’s personal interpretation of the story. This book showed a good way to approach it on a surface level, but that’s all it has going for it.

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