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Graphic Novel Threefer: Explorer: The Lost Islands / Animal Crackers / Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, and Other Stories

March 14, 2014

11. Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi (2013)

Length: 128 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories

Started/Finished: 23 February 2014

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? New Kazu Kibuishi; heck yeah!

Summary: An anthology of short comics, all with the theme “The Lost Island”, although the interpretation of that theme is up to the individual authors. In “Rabbit Island” by Jake Parker, things are going swimmingly until one of the rabbits builds a robot to help with his daily tasks. “The Mask Dance by Chrystin Garland involves a young girl who is left behind when her father goes over to the local festival. “Carapace” by Jason Caffoe stars a young man stranded on a desert island, and his growing relationship with the ghost of a giant crab. “Desert Island Playlist” by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier is another stranding, this time of a young woman, with nothing but a backpack containing some old memories, who has to confront some of the issues with her family she thought she’d left behind. “Loah” by Michel Gagné is a prehistoric creature who saves the other inhabitants of her pond from a terrible cataclysm. “Radio Adrift” by Katie Shanahan & Steven Shanahan is the story of a young girl who has to hatch a pixie for school, but the only sound the pixie egg responds to is a voice on a strange radio station. “The Fishermen” by Kazu Kibuishi is a story of greed and obsession on the open sea… and on a strange island that is not what it seems.

Review: There was an interesting variety of styles represented here, although I didn’t think the stories were particularly varied – certainly not as much as the in the previous Explorer collection. Maybe this topic was more constraining? A lot of them seemed to have overly simplistic morals (particularly “Rabbit Island” and “Desert Island Playlist”) that almost bordered on patronizing. My favorites were “Radio Adrift” and “Carapace” – they were the most inventive, and had the best sense of humor to them (plus Jason Caffoe’s artwork is almost as gorgeous as Kazu Kibuishi’s, and while I didn’t love the story of “The Fishermen”, the artwork was stellar). So I didn’t love all of the stories, but it was an enjoyable – and definitely visually appealing! – way to spend an hour. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the Flight collections, or just want a sampler of some great comics artists out there, Explorer: The Lost Islands should be up your alley.

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

Other Reviews: Waking Brain Cells
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

14. Animal Crackers by Gene Luen Yang (2004)

Length: 216 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Started/Finished: 26 February 2014

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’ve enjoyed Gene Luen Yang’s other work, so I picked up this one as well.

Summary: Animal Crackers is a collection of two of Gene Luen Yang’s earliest stories, “Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks” and “Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order”. They’re interconnected stories, the first starting a rather dumb bully, who discovers he has an alien spaceship lodged in his nose, and the only one who can help him is his former victim. The second involves a girl from the same school, who discovers the truth of what the nose-aliens are doing, and has to choose between her heart and her head when it comes to what she’s going to do about it.

Review: This book has all of the lovely little absurdities that are familiar from Yang’s later work (I mean, you communicate with the aliens by plugging a TV cable into your nostril, for heaven’s sake), but those absurdities don’t overwhelm the story that Yang is trying to tell. There’s a stronger religious (Christian) element to the second part of the book than I normally prefer, but in this case, it strangely didn’t bother me (probably because there’s also nose aliens). There’s also a lot of high-school realities in there, although they are probably also dialed up for storytelling’s sake. I was a little shocked how cavalierly the revelation that the bullying victim builds bombs and brings them to school was treated, especially since this was written (I believe) in a post-Littleton world. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s Yang’s early work, but it’s almost as polished as American Born Chinese, and I actually enjoyed the story a little bit more.

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

Other Reviews: Couldn’t find any. Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

15. Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, and Other Stories: A Free Comic Book Day Hardcover Anthology by David Petersen et al. (2012)
Mouse Guard, short story

Length: 48 pages
Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy

Started/Finished: 27 February 2014

Where did it come from? The library booksale.
Why do I have it? Usually you can only get Free Comic Book Day stuff on the Free Comic Book Day in question, so of course I was going to pick up an anthology on sale at the library booksale, plus it’s one with a Mouse Guard story!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 26 October 2013.

Summary: This is a collection of short comics, most of which I believe are part of – or set in the universe of – longer comic series, given away on Free Comic Book Day to entice readers to pick up the longer books.

Review: “Mouse Guard: The Tale of Baldwin the Brave” by David Petersen is the reason I picked up this book in the first place. It’s a story from Mouse Guard history, so it stands alone just fine, and it’s presented as a puppet show that the mice are watching, which was an interesting twist on Petersen’s typical gorgeous artwork. The rest of the stories I was unfamiliar with. Well, in the case of “Labyrinth: Hoggle and the Worm” by Ted Naifeh and Adrianne Ambrose, I’ve seen the movie a million times, although I haven’t read the comics, but it was still a cute little story. The story that best achieved its objective of making me want to read more was “Rust: Oswald’s Letter” by Royden Lepp – it had exactly the right blend of tone and worldbuilding details and self-containment and hints of a much bigger and more interesting story, and was visually lovely as well. I also wouldn’t mind reading more in the world of “Cow Boy: Long While Ago” by Nate Cosby, although it didn’t grab me as strongly as “Rust”. There were also two stories that didn’t work for me: “Steps of the Dapper Men” by Jim McCann was odd, and not in an intriguing way, and the artwork in “Cursed Pirate Girl: Ramblings From an Old Sea Dog Who Likes to be Called Alice” by Jeremy Bastian was so incredibly busy that it was almost indecipherable. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: The Mouse Guard story isn’t critical, but it’s cute, and some of the other stories did their job as well. As a volume, it’s fun if you can get your hands on it, but don’t worry that you’re missing out if you can’t.

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

Other Reviews: Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2014 8:46 am

    I really liked American Born Chinese so I want Animal Crackers!

    • March 14, 2014 10:56 am

      Kathy – It was totally absurd but still an interesting/fun read. I hope you like it!

  2. March 22, 2014 12:46 pm

    All three of these sound worth checking out! I am not sure how I missed that Animal Crackers existed!

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