The Explorer books are wildly imaginative, thought-provoking comics anthologies that will appeal to any young creative mind. The series has its genesis in the Flight series, also edited by Kazu Kibuishi, that showcased the best of new comics talent over eight volumes between 2004 and 2011. Explorer is shorter, more affordable and aimed specifically at younger readers. Flight took the same theme (albeit loosely interpreted) for every volume, whereas Explorer has a different one each time. The series so far includes The Mystery Boxes (2012), The Lost Islands (2013) and The Hidden Doors (2014).
I was first drawn to the series when I picked up The Mystery Boxes and noticed an exclusive story by Emily Carroll. At £7.99 it almost seemed worth it for that alone. Carroll’s Through the Woods, a collection of spooky but hugely enjoyable fairytales, was one of the most exciting graphic novel releases of last year (out soon in paperback). Her Explorer contribution, Under the Floorboards, is about a girl who finds a mysterious wax figure in a box beneath her bedroom. The figure comes to life and starts helping her in her day to day life, but soon things takes a sinister turn and she has to find a way to get it back into the box. After enjoying this story, I found the quality was consistently high throughout the collection, the variations on the theme all completely different. I went straight back and bought the others.
Other highlights for me include: Carapace by Jason Caffoe (The Lost Islands), in which a boy stranded on a desert island is taught survival skills by the spirit of a giant crab, in exchange for help returning the crab's shell to the ocean; and Two Person Door by Faith Erin Hicks (The Hidden Doors), following a lonely boy called Shiro who finds a magic door that promises a world of adventure beyond, the only condition being that he needs to find a second person to go through with him.
Take your first step into the aptly-named Explorer series. Wherever you start, you are bound to be taken on a voyage of discovery.