I've never actually read any of the Flight anthology books before, though I've been meaning to do so for awhile now, for a few reasons. Every time I flip through them, I think that there's a lot of amazing talent housed in its pages, plenty of beautiful art to gawk at. I also recently read editor Kazu Kibuishi's first all-ages Amulet graphic novel, as well as frequent contributor Kean Soo's Jellaby, the latter title of which actually prompted me to pick up the Flight Explorer, as Kean Soo contributes once more, with a story featuring the cute purple monster featured in his graphic novel that I enjoyed so much. Flight Explorer is basically a Flight anthology aimed at children, vying for the same high quality that the original anthology is known for. I had thought that the Flight anthologies intended each story, at least initially, to include an aspect of "flight," however interpreted by the artist, but I guess that that was a misconception on my part, since Kibuishi has denied this being a themed series. I was kind of thinking as I was reading this all-ages volume that it was a stretch to force some of the stories into the category by any definition of the word, and was a little distracted by the fact, so it's kind of nice to hear that the book hasn't morphed from the editor's original intentions. It merely seeks to showcase high quality material as any good anthology should.
Flight Explorer opens with a story by editor Kazu Kibuishi, "Copper: Mushroom Crossing." His Copper strips have appeared in previous volumes of Flight, and feature a young boy and his talking dog. This time around, they take a short cut over a ravine by jumping over the tall mushrooms they find growing in abundance. While I prefer Kibuishi's characters and magical environment of Amulet, it's obvious in this eight-page comic that the creator is a fantastic cartoonist. I'm not very taken with Fred or Copper, but it's a fun whimsical little story.
Johane Matte's "Egyptian Cat: Perfect Cat" was a nice colorful little comic that kind of reminded me of Looney Tunes. It was a bit goofy. Animals spin other animals in the air, mice pose in a depressed a cat's mouth...that sort of thing.
The comic that compelled me to pick this book up, Kean Soo's "Jellaby: First Snow" is a story that captures pretty perfectly the magic of first snow through the eyes of a child, without being too cheesy about it. I only wish that Soo had omitted the sequence that describes how a snowflake is made - it was a little distracting and concluded the story on a strange note.
"Big Mouth" by Phil Craven was a little too straight-forward for my tastes, but the art probably stood out the most as different from the rest of the anthology. Good message for the kiddies, but one I think they've been beat over the head with enough.
"Missile Mouse: The Guardian Prophecy" by Jake Parker was the longest offering of the anthology, at eighteen pages. It was a good solid science fiction/fantasy story, very much for the boy readers and fans of superheroes. Pretty enthralling and action-packed, it was definitely one of the better offerings the book had to offer.
Another superhero story, "Fish N Chips: All In a Day's Work" by Steve Hamaker, was an odd little tale about a a superhero cat and fish team, the fish being the one who saves the planet while his partner takes a catnap and can't be bothered. Cute characters designs and overall nice pacing.
The story that I was most taken with was from Ben Katke's "Zita the Spacegirl: If Wishes Were Socks." Great cartooning and designs, nice pacing and story. The right mix of mainstream and off-beat.
"Wooden Rivers: Rain Slickers" by Rad Sechrist was just strange and didn't leave much of an impression of me. The same goes for Bannister's "Delivery," though I could at least appreciate the cartooning of the former. "Delivery" was just sort of ugly and cold.
The prettiest art came from Matthew Armstrong's "Snow Cap: 2nd Verse," a cute little story with adorable characters. It reminded me a little bit of Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew's Wonderland for Slave Labor Graphics, which is definitely a good thing. I wish it had been a little longer, but a nice way to end the book.
Overall, a great beginning for Flight Explorer. As with most anthologies, some stories were better than others, but that's the nature of the beast.