written, drawn and colored by David Peterson, published in 2007 by Archaia Studios Press
There’s something that’s just cool about the idea of mice wearing cloaks and fighting with swords and when it’s done right, who can resist? So when I saw this, I absolutely couldn’t resist, that’s how much I like the drawing and writing.
The first issue of Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 was published in early 2006 by Archaia Studios Press (here), titled “Belly of the Beast” and it caused a ripple through the graphic novel community. With each successive issue, six in all for the first – Fall – story arc, the buzz increased. Peterson is the total creator of the work, doing both the writing, and creating the art. He has a background in printmaking and that is the feel of the art, very graphic, full of contrast, a chiaroscuro play of dark and light.
“Mice struggle to live safely and prosper among the world’s harsh conditions and predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed. After persevering against a weasel warlord in the winter was of 1149, the territories are no longer troubled. The members of the Guard become escorts, pathfinders, weather watchers, scouts, bodyguards for the mice living in the towns and countryside. They keep the borders safe, find protected passages, lead shipments of goods. They guard against all evil and harm to their territories.”
In 1152, the mice territories are at peace, thanks to the defeat of an evil weasel overlord. The Mouse Guard still exists, helping to protect mice of The Land from predators and other dangers. When Lieam, Kenzie, and Saxon discover an abandoned grain wagon, it’s just the beginning of what will prove to be anything but an ordinary day for the Mouse Guard. That the opening of the first issue of six.
The writing is spare, the compelling artwork, deftly done, moody, sensitive to the scale of the creatures in their world, is what will pull you in. Peterson’s coloring done with a light touch. Panel layouts are straightforward. As you can see from the cover, these aren’t “cute” mice, they’re warriors with spirit and strength of character. They are military mice in times of danger – it’s always a time of danger for mice – they share duty and comradeship.
The six issues of Mouse Guard Fall 1152 were collected in hardcover, shown at the bottom of the post. It was available in soft cover in Feb 2008.
Peterson continued the tale of treason, revolt and struggle during the harsh winter in Mouse Guard Winter 1152. The Winter issues are as good as Fall. The story advances in a sinister way, taking an unsuspected turn. Also published in six issues, the Winter story arc was collected in a hardcover edition published early summer 2009. A soft cover edition is on the way.
Mouse Guard has been compared to the Redwall books. While those books have more story and heft, Peterson’s work is deliciously subtle. These aren’t cute mouse stories, this isn’t Disney. There are attacks by vicious creatures, skulls in watery darkness, swordplay with fatal results, poisonings. But if you like balanced, compelling artwork with a good tale, I think you’ll like these.