Book title: Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Authors, illustrators, editor: Kazu Kibuishi, Emily Carroll, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist, Stuart Livingston, Stephanie Ramirez, Johane Matte, Saymone Phanekham
Series: Explorer, #1
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams Books)
Release date: March 2012
Format: Paperback, 128 pages
About the book:
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Find out in these seven clever stories by eight incredible comics creators!
Under the Floorboards by Emily Carroll
A box, a doll…but it’s no ordinary plaything!
Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier
There really is mystery in the back of a messy closet!
The Keeper’s Treasure by Jason Caffoe
A treasure inside a labyrinth inside a temple which way to turn now?
The Butter Thief by Rad Sechrist
There’s more than one way to trap a house spirit!
The Soldier’s Daughter by Stuart Livingston
There are mysteries of life and death–and beyond.
Whatzit by Johane Matte
Oh no, not that box! Watch out, little alien!
The Escape Option by Kazu Kibuishi
A strange, meteoric box and an otherworldly choice.
Open the book! Let the adventure begin!
♣ Overall rating: 3 stars ♣
Plot: 3 | Pacing: 5 | Characters: 3.5 | Writing: 4 | World building: 3 | Illustrations: 5
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes is a really cool graphic anthology that features seven different stories revolving around a box of some kind. Kazu Kibuishi of the Amulet series edited this collection as well as contributed to it, and this anthology additionally features the works of Emily Carroll, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist, Stuart Livingston, Stephanie Ramirez, Johane Matte, and Saymone Phanekham. Let’s talk about the individual graphic stories in here.
- Emily Carroll’s story, Under the Floorboards, is by far the best of the bunch. It’s creepy and dark, but ultimately fulfilling and satisfying in the end. It goes deeper than some of the other stories do, and the illustrations are colored darkly to make the story even spookier. Emily Carroll later became acclaimed for her phenomenal book Through the Woods. It seems she really likes writing and illustrating horror stories…
- The second story is called Spring Cleaning and is by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier. It’s fun, funny, and upbeat, filled with magicians and overflowing closets and basements. It has vibrant colors and is one of the more cartoonishly drawn stories.
- The third story is by Jason Caffoe and is titled The Keeper’s Treasure. It’s mystical and makes you smile, and is slightly similar in tone and style to Kazu Kibuishi’s works. (I’m not familiar with Jason Caffoe’s work so I’m sorry for the comparison.) I really loved the imaginative troll (I think? He looked like a troll, but a nice one), and the message relayed in this story is sweet.
- The fourth story is The Butter Thief and is by Rad Sechrist. This hilarious heist over some much-needed butter is very original, with a incredibly unique artwork and lively, electric colors. This is probably my favorite story of the bunch in terms of the art style and coloring.
- Story five is The Soldier’s Daughter by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez. I liked how the pictures were laid out and chopped up (I’m sure there’s a term for that but I don’t know it right now). It’s about a soldier’s daughter going out to avenge her father — only she instead learns a sad, important truth.
- The sixth story is a really fun tale called Whatzit and is by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham. Also more cartoon-y, this energetic story is about the hilarious chaos that ensues in a cargo hangar when one little worker curiously opens up a box that isn’t listed in the computer database.
- And the last story in the book, by the master Kazu Kibuishi, is called The Escape Option. (The book’s cover is a scene from this story. Gorgeous, right?) I love Kazu’s art style and colors, as well as his use of different typefaces and speech bubbles for different types of characters.
The stories aren’t all stellar, but all the artwork is magnificent. I could stare at the illustrations all day. If I had to rank the stories in order of favorite to least favorite, they’d go: Under the Floorboards (absolutely creeptastic!), The Keeper’s Treasure (because of that lovable troll!), The Butter Thief (because of the breathtaking art and colors), Whatzit (because it’s just so fun), The Escape Option (pretty but not that exciting), Spring Cleaning (cute enough but lacking substance), and then The Soldier’s Daughter (definitely the least memorable of the bunch).
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes is a quick and enjoyable read, and the way the stories remain cohesive through the “box” theme was a nice touch. It’s not a particularly strong graphic anthology, but if I see the other two books in the series floating around I’ll definitely grab ’em so I can look at all the stunning artwork. ♦
Have you read Explorer: The Mystery Boxes?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s your favorite graphic novel?
Or, who’s your favorite illustrator?
And have you read any graphic anthologies before?
Comment below letting me know!
And, as always, happy reading!