Flight Explorer is a spin-off of Kazu Kibuishi‘s ongoing comic anthology Flight, aimed very specifically at children. The artists who join him in this graphic novel also contribute to Flight. Each of the artists involved including Kibuishi provided both story and art for their selections. There are ten stories in total, ranging from four to twenty pages and covering a variety of genres and styles.
Opening the volume is Kibuishi’s own “Copper: Mushroom Crossing,” about a boy, Copper, and his dog Fred and the rather humorous results when they take a shortcut across the top of a forest of, well, giant, sentient mushrooms. Next is my favorite in the collection, Johane Matte’s “The Perfect Cat,” wherein an ancient feline’s jealousy over his mistress’ new cat is found to be … misguided. The Siamese’s expression in the final panel is priceless.
Kean Soo’s “Jellaby: First Snow” celebrates both the joy of a first snow and the unique delight to be found in friendship, through the lens of a girl and a monster playing in the first snow of the season. Seeing the good in everyone, even a loud-mouth annoyance, seems to be the moral of Phillip Craven’s simply drawn but heartfelt “Big Mouth.”
One of the longest and most complex – both in story and art – offerings is Jake Parker’s “Missile Mouse in the Guardian Prophecy.” This space opera romp pits hero Missile Mouse against a cephalopodian frigate (think a sentient, giant, one-eyed, tentacular ship), which he defeats with the help of a planetary native, thus fulfilling a long-standing prophecy.
Another space story follows, Steve Hamaker’s “Fish n Chips in All in a Day’s Work.” Hamaker treats readers to a goldfish and cat duo who must destroy an asteroid bound straight for earth … except Chips sleeps through the whole thing, leaving bowl-bound Fish to save the day (not that the media notices the lack of a cat!).
Ben Hatke’s “Zita the Spacegirl in If Wishes were Socks,” touches on the disconcerting downside of wishing for friends just like you, and having it come true. “Wooden Rivers ‘Rain Slickers'” by Rad Sechrist is short and humorous and involves a remarkably intelligent cat who knows how to fly and use binoculars … and can read weather patterns. Tarzan and Jane get an amusing update in Bannister’s “Delivery,” and the final entry in the collection is Matthew Armstrong’s “Snow Cap: 2nd Verse,” wherein a fuzzy monster learns to be affectionate without eating his human friend.
Closing out the collection is a set of short bios for each contributor.
Overall, Flight Explorer is well-drawn and is poignant, action-packed and humorous by turns. While some of the stories are clearly geared for children, some of the stories, such as those by Kazu, Parker and Hamaker, will likely appeal to readers of all ages (perhaps serving as a gateway to the Flight series).
(Villard Books, 2008)