Take five

7th April 2000 at 01:00
Usagi Yogimbo: grey shadows. By Stan Sakai, Dark Horse Comics pound;11.95

Stan Sakai's comic-strip adaptation of samurai legend has a cult following. An earlier sequence of Usagi adventures won the 1999 Eisner Award for best serialised story.

Like the majority of so-called graphic novels, this is several individual comic books bound together, so the 200-page "novel" is not intended to form a single continuous narrative. The serial-episode effect is part of the appeal. Usagi, a rabbit modelled on the life of legendary Japanese warrior Miyamoto Musashi, is a very different sort of hero. The books are available singly at pound;1.50 each.

Batman: no man's land volume two Titan pound;9.99.

Year 5 boys I showed this to protested that some characters did not look as they should (meaning as in the TV cartoon).

Nevertheless, this was the title - in which Gotham City has been declared a no man's land and gangsters battle it out for domination - they were most keen to borrow.

Intent on creating a dark-night-of-the-streets atmosphere, the 13 inkers and colourists sometimes produce frames that are murky. Lovers of the Dark Knight himself won't mind, but those Y5 pupils are right in one respect - there are far too many Batman versions.

Star Wars Shadows of the Empire: evolution Titan pound;10.99

Brilliantly luminous artwork by Ron Randall and Tom Simmons make this a feast for the eye. Several frames out-pop-art Roy Lichtenstein, with their THWUMPs, KAWHOOMs and ZZZTs, which, for adult readers, borders on self-parody.

The key chracter is Guri, a human replica droid keen to have her violent streak reprogrammed. With fewer bubbles to read than some graphic novels, this could appeal to a younger audience, especially those with knowledge of Star Wars films. A helpful timeline puts all films, books and novelisations into sequence.

Simpsons A Go-Go, Titan, pound;7.99

A marvellously literate collection of Simpsons comics kicks off with "Rhymes and Misdemeanours", in which the Springfield Elementary School library is closed owing to disruption of the card catalogue. "I'm afraid it will be weeks before the serenity of the Dewey system is restored," frets the librarian. Most of the fisticuffs here are figurative. No need for THWUMP and KAWHOOM. Just face-to-face confrontation between similes: "It was like suckin' beer out of an ashtray," against "Your coffee tastes as if you strained it through a toupee!" Spike and Suzy in The Loch Ness Mystery. By Willy Vandersteen Intes, International, pound;3.99

Recommended for a younger audience, as a graphic novel that tells a single continuous story and uses standard lower-case text in the speech bubbles. Suzy and Spike (who at times looks the image of Tintin, except for his black hair), set off for Scotland to test Sidonioa's sighting of the Loch Ness monster and Ambrose's scepticism.

This is the fifth title in an inexpensive series. As graphic novels gain their appeal cumulatively, librarians should consider buying the set.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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