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4.0 out of 5 stars Tales of boxes, 22 Feb 2014
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (Paperback)
Boxes. Boxes with mystery contents. They may have treasure, or a demon, or an alien creature, or even a demonic wax doll. Each of the seven stories in "Explorer: The Mystery Boxes" revolves around a... well, a mysterious box that changes the life of whoever handles it. A couple of the stories are too goofy for me to really get into them, but the others are simply sublime -- bittersweet, hopeful, charming and/or creepy.

The stories, in order, are:
- A girl finds a box with a wax doll inside. But while the doll initially helps her with her chores, it also begins to cause trouble... and refuses to leave.
- While cleaning his closet, Oliver finds a strange puzzle box -- and is immediately swamped by greedy wizards who want to buy it from him. However, Oliver has his own plans for the box.
- A young treasure-hunter ventures into a vast labyrinth, and finds a mysterious box with the help of a horned creature. What is inside? And can it match the horned creature's dreams?
- After her grandmother claims to have caught a butter-stealing spirit in a box, a curious girl digs it up and checks inside... and ends up being transformed into a teeny-tiny spirit herself. How can she get back?
- After her father is killed, Clara sets out for vengeance against the man who killed him. But when she meets a stranger with a glowing box, she learns the true price of war.
- Alien worker Deets is assigned to organize thousands of boxes... only to discover that something very destructive is inside one. Will it ever come in handy?
- While James is hiking, he is drawn up into a vast floating box. Inside, an alien tells him that the Earth is doomed, and that he has been chosen out of all humans to be taken to another world.

The only story that didn't truly grab me was "Whatzit" -- it's not a BAD story per se, but it's very slapsticky and cartoonish. In those ways, it seems out of sync with the other lighter stories in this collection, such as the charming "Spring Cleaning" or the frenetic Japanese-themed "Butter Thief. The remaining four stories are truly entrancing, ranging from quiet horror to haunting sci-fi, from a misty meditation on revenge to a fantastical ode to the imagination.

And every story's artwork matches the narrative. For instance, Kazu Kibuishi's is misty, shadowed and quietly graceful (especially the outdoor scenes); Emily Carroll's is very simple and slightly sinister; Jason Caffoe's is filled with luminous blue light and glowing gold; and Johane Matte's looks kind of like an adapted story from a Cartoon Network show, very jagged and colorful.

"Explorer: The Mystery Boxes" is a good showcase for some very talented comic artists -- beautiful art and stories that range from heartbreaking to kooky. A couple didn't quite grab me, but even the lesser stories aren't too bad.
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Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi (Paperback - 1 Mar 2012)
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