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Beautiful, Graphic 'Flights' Of Fantasy

'Flight Volume Five'
Flight Volume Five
Kazu Kibuishi, editor
Paperback, 363 pages
Villard
List Price: $25.00

Cutting-edge comics are usually dark, angst-filled affairs. But opening Flight Volume Five, a luscious, full-color collection of graphic short stories, is like discovering Disney's Fantasia all over again.

Originally an indie venture known only to graphic novel insiders and the uber-hip, the annually issued Flight series is now flirting with the mainstream; people in the know still scrutinize each volume for hot new talent, but, increasingly, lovers of short stories, science fiction, manga, and cartoons are beginning to pick up these exquisite, genre-blending anthologies.

With Volume Five, series editor, Kazu Kibuishi (author of the heralded steampunk Western, Daisy Kutter), has once again crafted a work of childlike beauty and a major showcase for some of America's best young graphic novelists.

In this volume's silly-but-philosophical "Igloo Head and Tree Head," by Scott Campbell, a peacenik monster (Igloo Head) believes "tacos are way more delicious than war is fun" and sets out to convert an alliance of war-minded creatures. (The mail-order disguises he uses to infiltrate the War Club are hilarious.)

In "The Changeling," by Sarah Mensinga, a pregnant, unmarried girl has her baby saved, not stolen, by fairies.

In Matthew Bernier's "Mountains," two people on a deserted island confront an ocean full of frightening sea monsters. "I think they just look scary," one of them says, before realizing it's possible to march across their backs like steppingstones.

In the charming "Voyage," a polar bear on an iceberg floats wordlessly past scenes of natural wonder and man-made destruction.

A few of these young authors, like Svetlana Chmakova, creator of the acclaimed manga Dramacon, have been around a while. But many — Bernier, included — are newbies straight out of art school.

In these delightful pieces, influences as varied as Pixar, The New Yorker's Saul Steinberg, Jules Verne, Jonny Quest, manga and the Cartoon Network have been absorbed and transformed into fine new art. It was inevitable that talented children would grow up and turn their beloved comic books and Saturday-morning cartoons into treasure — sweet revenge for all those times they were told to put Sailor Moon away and turn the television off.

These kids aren't just all right — they're brilliant.

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