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Trading Up: Mouse Guard - Winter 1152

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Once again, David Petersen takes us to Lockhaven for a tale of its protectors, the Mouse Guard. After the treachery of Midknight in Fall 1152, the city finds itself short on supplies and the Guard on a Mission that ironically will help accomplish one of the traitor’s goals - a unified Mouse World.

Normally, winter is a time of rest for the guard, but Gwendolyn has sent them to the other territories in an effort to secure provisions to survive the harsh season and deliver invitations to a summit. As our intrepid heroes start their return home, Saxon, Kenzie and Sadie are separated from Lieam and Celanwe. The larger group explores the deep caverns of Darkheathen - a stronghold of the weasels that runs farther north than the mice had previously suspected. Above ground, the young tenderfoot and the storied elder are tasked with completing their mission and delivering much needed medicines to their base.

All the while, in the gates of the city that is the heart of mouse culture, another traitor has been discovered to be enacting a sinister plot. As a result the gates of Lockhaven have been closed and the delayed mice are needed urgently.

Petersen writes a denser story here then he did in the previous volume, he must have taken the one universal complaint of Fall 1152 - its lightness - to heart. There is not just more adventure here, but the beginnings of a much more elaborate back story. The history is expanded while new dangers are revealed. The deadly cold, ice storms, the hunter owls and bats of the underworld all have different deaths in mind for the mice of his world. Through these dangers and the toils of their expeditions, our heroes will be tested in ways they never could have imagined. Lieam carves out a new destiny for himself and the larger band forms a tight bond.

As always, the art is just as accomplished as the script. The brush strokes that create the familiar heroes are just as precise and detailed. However, this time around, Petersen decides to show his expert ability with light. The contrast between Lockhaven, the tunnels of the weasels and the snow covered wild is remarkable, but the shadows of the dungeon like tunnels impress the most.

Petersen introduces new animals to the scene. Hares and owls show that his abilities are just as solid as they were in creating this world. The astonishing work with rain in the first volume (and to understand how astonishing, the black and white version is a must have) is paralleled by the layered ice covering our unlikely pair on the surface. It should be revealing if there is overlay work presented on this in the next black and white edition. This attention to detail is what makes Mouse Guard a delight to the eyes.

While Winter 1152 is a darker tome, it is still a great all ages read. Not merely for kids, Mouse Guard is an example of what comics can achieve at its best and most accomplished. Hopefully, The Black Axe - the next chapter - will see us still in the very early stages of a long epic.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 is available in Hardcover for $24.95.

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