Book Reviews: Comic Heroes Find New Life in Books

Zap! Bam! Pow! Traction Man Is Here! (Knopf, $15.95; ages 4 to 8). He’s a comic-book hero in real-book form. But really he’s a doll, an action figure that a young boy receives one lucky Christmas. A toy coming to life – it’s not a new story. But author-artist Mini Grey does such a clever job bringing this boy’s vivid imagination to life that the story stays fresh. Wearing a variety of outfits – clothes are so crucial – Traction Man rescues farm animals from the Evil Pillows, guards the breakfast toast, volunteers for a special mission in the dishwater, fights off Mysterious Toes in the bath, even takes a nap when he’s tired (it’s called “suspended animation”). Oh, no! Granny has knit an embarrassing green suit and cap for Traction Man’s Christmas. How will he save himself from this sartorial disaster? Genuinely hilarious.

Starting out as an underground comic book created by Jeff Smith, “Bone” now makes its debut as a graphic novel in full color. In Bone: Out from Boneville (Graphix/Scholastic, $9.99; ages 9 to12), three Bone cartoony cousins establish their distinct, mostly lovable, personalities. Then they engage in snappy dialog as they battle assorted creatures in a vast, Lord of the Rings-style landscape filled with dangers. Clearly this saga will be an epic one – eight more volumes are coming.

Nancy Drew just never ages, and in her latest incarnation the girl detective catches up with the latest trend as a Japanese manga star. The Demon of River Heights (Papercutz/Simon & Schuster, $7.95; ages 9 to 12) starts off a hip, new graphic novel series, based on Carolyn Keene’s books but with new words and art by Stefan Petrucha and Sho Murase. Lots of fun, with more volumes coming and, of course, a companion Hardy Boys series starting off with The Ocean of Osyria.