Flight Explorer Vol. 1 (Villard)

flightexplorer-header.jpgThe creators of the critically acclaimed Flight series of anthologies turn their talents toward all-ages fare.



111 pgs. Full Color; $10.00

(W/A: various; Editor: Kazu Kibuishi)

With the Harvey Award-winning anthology series Flight, editor Kazu Kibuishi has created a bit of a phenomenon. The short-story anthology had not been a popular format in comics for many years, but the critical acclaim and reader attention Flight achieved changed all that. Flight‘s introduction into the marketplace changed the way many publishing houses viewed comic anthologies, encouraging them to release material of their own in that vein. Because of the quality of work it contained as well, Flight became not only the flag-bearer but also the gold standard for all anthologies to live up to.

Click for a larger image.Recently, Kibuishi and his co-contributors turned their attention towards stories geared for younger readers with Flight Explorer. As it stood, the series was already rather kid-friendly, but Kibuishi has said that, in creating this new Explorer anthology, he simply wanted to "[bring] into focus the all-ages comics we’ve always had." In fact, Explorer contains stories starring a few familiar faces of characters seen in previous volumes of Flight such as Kibuishi’s own creation "Copper" and "Jellaby" by Kean Soo. It does leave readers to ponder whether this new series was really necessary or not, but perhaps this branching out will also lead to a tonal shift to more adult-oriented content in the next volume of Flight itself, which was just released earlier this week.

This first volume of Flight Explorer contains ten stories in all which vary greatly in length, totaling a little more than a hundred pages. Most of the stories are very brief, measuring ten pages or less, but a few are longer (the "Missile Mouse" story by Jake Parker is longest at twenty pages). The tales are both serious and humorous, and they come in a variety of genres from science fiction ("Zita the Space Girl") to action/adventure ("Fish N Chips"), featuring locations as diverse as ancient Egypt ("Egyptian Cat") and the African jungle ("Delivery"). In short, there is a little bit of something for everyone in this anthology, giving it a very broad appeal.

All the stories are of very high quality as well, featuring very outstanding art and brilliant coloring. Kean Soo’s "Jellaby" story is one example, a heartwarming tale of a purple monster and his human best friend. In this volume’s installment "First Snow," Jellaby is exposed to the stark landscape of a snowfall for the first time, his purple color standing out beautifully against all the white, and the detail the artist puts into drawing each snowflake is intricate. The first page of "Delivery" is another strong example of the attention to detail found in each story, as the artist Bannister skillfully conveys the way the streaks of sunlight pass through the thick green undergrowth of the jungle.

Most of Flight Explorer‘s stories also have positive messages; the best such example can be found in the tale "Big Mouth" by Phil Craven. An overly large, overly loud creature has difficulty making friends at first due to his size and volume, but eventually he is able to find a friend who accepts him for who he is. At the very least, stories such as the "Snow Cap" tale by Matthew Armstrong or "Wooden Rivers: Rain Slickers" by Rad Sechrist, while neither one has a message per se, are completely innocuous and simple fare that children can enjoy.

In the end, Flight Explorer is certainly recommended to anyone who has children as a good read for any age group. However, some adults might find a few of the stories too slight and inconsequential to justify the $10 purchase, for, like most children’s books, it is possible to read the entire thing in ten or fifteen minutes. Should the tone of Flight itself remain as kid-friendly as it has been, it would be a much better value than this Explorer series since it features similar stories of the same degree of quality, but with three times the length at only twice the price. | Steve Higgins


Learn more about Flight at www.flightcomics.com!

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