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Kazu Kibuishi – Explorer: The Mystery Boxes / Copper

September 28, 2012

107. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi (2012)

Length: 128 pages
Genre: Anthology, Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Started / Finished: 26 September 2012

Where did they come from? My lovely local public library.
Why do I have them? Semi-random browsing; I like Kibuishi’s work.

Overall Summary and Reviews: This is a collection of short stories, that are all based on the simple question: What’s in that mysterious box? About half of the stories are funny, and half are sort of sad/poignant, but they’re all beautifully drawn and interesting takes on the stories. 4 out of 5 stars.

Individual Stories: – “Under the Floorboards” by Emily Carroll is a story of a girl who finds a box under the floor with a small wax doll. At first, the doll is useful – doing her chores, etc. – but eventually it starts to become a problem. This story walked the borderline between cute and creepy really effectively, although the plot reminded me quite a bit of Anya’s Ghost.

– “Spring Cleaning” by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier involves a boy who finds a mysterious box while cleaning out his house, only to find his house full of some very pushy wizards. Cute story, although the ending was a little climactic. As always, Telgemeier’s artwork was great.

– I’m also a big fan of Jason Caffoe’s art. At first, “The Keeper’s Treasure” reminded me of “Sentinels” from Flight, Vol. 7. It’s a story of a young adventurer looking for a treasure inside a hidden temple, and the guardian he finds in the labyrinth is not exactly what he expects. It’s a cool idea for the story, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the way it ended, and the message that it sends.

– “The Butter Thief” by Rad Sechrist involves a grandmother who is convinced that a trickster spirit is stealing butter from the kitchen, and a granddaughter who doesn’t believe – until she gets turned into a spirit as well. Cute story (vaguely reminiscent of Spirited Away, although lighter and funnier), with appealingly unusual artwork.

– “The Soldier’s Daughter” by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez involves a girl who finds out her father has been killed in the war, and goes out to find his killer. While I can’t fault this story’s message (which is basically “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”), I don’t know that it brought very much new to that message, either. It also strayed furthest from the “What’s in the box?” theme.

– “Whatzit” by Johane Matte involves a small alien working his first shift at a box-sorting plant, a mysterious box he encounters, and the havoc that is unleashed when he opens it. Cute, funny, and totally worth it for no other reason than the image of the little alien scraping a flattened unicorn off the side of a planet.

– “The Escape Option” by Kazu Kibuishi is a story of a young man who encountered a recently-arrived alien cube, and gets sucked inside and given a dire warning about the future of humanity. This artwork was lovely (unsurprisingly), and an interesting mix of darkness and hope to the story.

Recommendation: Like the Flight anthologies, this is definitely worth reading if you’re interested in getting a sampling of artwork, styles, and stories.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

108. Copper by Kazu Kibuishi (2010)

Length: 96 pages
Genre: Comics, Fantasy(ish)

Started / Finished: 26 September 2012

Summary: Copper and his dog Fred go on a variety of adventures – often despite Fred’s neuroses and anxiety. But Copper’s usually more than willing to keep spirits high, and even occasionally get them out of trouble.

Review: Rather than a regular graphic novel, Copper is a series of short comics, mostly one page (although a few are longer, and there are a few recurrent characters and themes). I’d encountered Fred and Copper in “Maiden Voyage” in the first volume of Flight, but I got a much better sense of their personalities from reading all of their comics together.

So, from the cover, and the shelving at my library, I was expecting this book to be aimed at a fairly youngish audience. And while there wasn’t anything that made it inappropriate for the younger set, there was a pretty dark tone to some of the comics that I wasn’t expecting. I like the interplay between Copper and Fred, but for every story in which Copper gets the last word (“Climbing“), there’s another one in which Fred’s more pessimistic outlook seems to be more apt (“Outside“). While there’s a sense of whimsy and adventurousness and charm in a lot of these stories, I also got an undercurrent of anxiety and bitterness (“Bubbles“) and loneliness (“Signals“) from more than a few of them… which I think actually made me like the collection more in the end. It’s rare that a comic can achieve that balance, with its perspective feeling so mature and realistic, despite the talking dog and giant mushrooms. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I don’t know if I can come up with any read-alikes, but I found this book had more depth than I was expecting given its size and cover, so I’d say it’s worth checking out for any comics fan, especially if you like the strips Kibuishi has on his website.

Bonus: One of my favorites (“Waterfall“), and one for the grad students out there (“Steps“).

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews (Copper): The Book Pirate, Page 247
Other Reviews (Explorer: The Mystery Boxes): Bart’s Bookshelf, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, Waking Brain Cells
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

© 2012 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2012 10:45 pm

    I have a vague memory of a book I read as a kid, a collection of short stories all around the premise that someone received a beautiful box that was empty… There’s something so enticing about mysterious boxes and the stories they hold!

    • October 8, 2012 10:47 am

      Cheryl – Sounds like an interesting book! I’d love to know if you remember the title.


  1. Graphic Novel Threefer: Explorer: The Lost Islands / Animal Crackers / Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, and Other Stories | Fyrefly's Book Blog

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