By Leroy Douresseaux
September 14, 2008 - 10:37
|Cover for Villard's edition of the Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 collection.|
Mouse Guard, the award-winning comic book series from cartoonist David Petersen, is set in a world like our own, but the series focuses on a world of intelligent mice that live in a medieval-type era. Mouse Guard began in early 2006 as six-issue miniseries published by Archaia Studios Press. In 2007, Archaia collected the initial six issues in a hardcover collection entitled, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, which included new material: an 8-page epilogue to the initial story arc and eight more pages of maps, guides, and miscellanea. In March of this year (2008), Villard Books released a soft cover version of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 with an additional eight pages of illustrations.
Mouse Guard takes place in the Mouse Territories, a collection of cities, towns, and villages where mice live complicated lives. The Mouse Guard is, according to the preface of the opening chapter, a league of scouts, weather-watchers, trailblazers, and protectors, who defend the peace and prosperity of the Mouse Territories. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 finds three of the Mouse Guard: veterans Saxon and Kenzie and the newer Lieam dispatched on an urgent mission. They must find a missing mouse, a grain merchant who was traveling in the dangerous forest between settlements and who never arrived at his destination.
When the trio finds the merchant, they also make another shocking discovery: treacherous betrayal, stolen secrets and histories, and a rising, dark, mysterious power that seeks to bring down the Mouse Guard and all for which it stands. Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam, and their trusted compatriots crisscross the territories to stop a great evil, and a legend rises again.
THE LOWDOWN: It has been frequently compared to Richard Adams’ heroic fantasy novel, Watership Down (1972), but I will compare Mouse Guard to other works of fantasy that appeal to readers of all ages (since I haven’t read Watership Down). Mouse Guard reminds me of the Chronicles of Prydain, the Mabinogion (which influenced Prydain’s author Lloyd Alexander), The Hobbit, and Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers novels. Mouse Guard is the kind of children’s fantasy that appeals to any age in which the reader is open to flights of fancy and imagination.
Creator David Petersen’s plot and script are smartly and tightly composed, emphasizing put-it-in-a-nutshell characterization and a spry pace that is perfect for mystery/suspense. The art is beautifully crafted, a decorative watercolor style that would seem out of place in any comic book series, except this one. Petersen’s world is so well-crafted that you’ll believe in the Mouse Guard, too.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers who enjoy classic juvenile fantasy will love this.