Set at a comic convention, this story shouldn't be as entertaining and fun as it is. But it's a little gem: the plot trips along, and though the art is good, not breathtaking, the Russian-born Canadian artist/author has clearly mastered the now international visual language of manga. The heroine is Chris, a self-willed girl who is taken for granted by her boyfriend, Derek. Chris meets the dark and mysterious Matt, who seems to understand her completely, and hijinks ensue. Sounds corny as hell, but the narrative is smart, witty and moving. The characters tap into the manga archetypes, which makes them breathe and have moments of being larger-than-life. Chris goes through self-doubt to self-knowledge and learns a bit of bravery along the way. It's astonishing to reflect that all the action takes place in the hotel rooms and convention floors where kids sell their homemade comics. Under the noses of adults, these "cons" have slipped into popular culture as a new land of rebels, mentors and wisdom-what road trips and the Haight once were. They're a perfect place for a growing-up story. Using every visual manga convention to its fullest, this ripping little tale is strong and expressive enough to reveal real emotional depth. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.