Overview

Mouse Guard #1

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Mouse Guard #1

Credits

  • Words: David Petersen
  • Art: David Petersen
  • Inks: David Petersen
  • Colors: David Petersen
  • Story Title: Belly of the Beast
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Feb 22, 2006

The Mouse Guard is an ancient, obsolete order of knights in a world full of oversized predators, but a dark time of trial is on the horizon for them all.

Though once needed to protect the small and the weak in barbaric times past, the Mouse Guard now act as pathfinders, escorts, and trail blazers in an age of peace. They are trained warriors, ever a wary eye trained against the day-to-day dangers of their world, but the days of war are spent, and the Guard now act as samurai-cum-diplomats – part active power brokers, part mere delegates. When three of these mousketeers (sorry, I really, really couldn’t not say that) – Lieam, Kenzie, and Saxon – are instructed to find a missing peasant mouse who never made it home from the market, what begins as a quiet, dour, atmospheric tale quickly escalates into a frantic, bloody battle with a surprising and portentous outcome.

I wasn’t certain of the flavor of this book before I began it, but there definitely was no question once I was done – this is a gritty, harsh fantasy world, with no room for blithe clichés, and no time given to anything that isn’t coated in down-to-the-bone severity. It’s a quick read – three, maybe five minutes tops (if time is taken to really enjoy the art) – yet due to this and to the quality of the actual content, it is immensely re-readable. The story is simple, though not plain; creator David Petersen has given all three mice introduced within this first issue very distinct, definitive personalities that are innately graspable, complimenting the story without burdening the speed with which it is told. The action that erupts and the intrigue which comes of its culmination, flow with equal efficiency, occurring in a natural, believable manner.

But as wonderfully crafted as the storytelling is, the art is by far the crowning achievement. Every single panel is worth scanning and resizing and pinning to the walls. Personally, I’d love to cover my walls panel-by-panel until I had the whole issue in sequential form lathering every inch of spare plaster whiteness I could find, and then I’d just pace around and around and around and honestly I’m not certain I’d ever get tired of it – it’s just that captivating. The mice look dirty (though not unpleasant) and their characters’ traits, their moment-to-moment unyielding will and varying degrees of hostility and poise all exposed with lucent candor. The world and its inhabitants are grim, and the art is strikingly parallel, without any of the murkiness that usually comes with more amateurish attempts at such an aesthetic.

Archaia Studio Press is best known for Mark Smylie’s Artesia line of books, but Mouse Guard is a natural fit alongside these. David Petersen has proven himself to be eminently skilled in creating both art and dialogue for a dark fantasy tale, and – little mice or no – that’s exactly what this is: a black and bloody spin on a generally Redwall-type of environment, with sparse scenery and gripping battles. From the looks of the covers for upcoming issues, it appears that this trend will continue, with one major David-and-Goliath throw down per issue and an underlying subplot that should keep things hip-deep in mystery until the end of the six-issue mini. Though I sincerely hope there’s much more to come than that – any book this good is one I’ll go well out of my way to get my hands on, and I highly recommend anyone who can to do the same!

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