Mouse Guard #1

By David Petersen
24 pages, color
Published by Archaia Studios Press

There’s something that’s just sort of cool about the idea of mice wearing cloaks and holding swords. It’s funny, because I’ve never read the best-selling Redwall novels but for some reason, the idea is just golden. Needless to say, when I saw the cover of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard I absolutely couldn’t resist.

In the mid-12th century, the mice territories are at peace thanks to the defeat of an evil weasel overlord. The Mouse Guard still exists, though, helping to protect the other 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.

What I really liked about Mouse Guard #1 was that aside from the final page, it really serves as a stand-alone story, a real introduction to the world that Petersen has created. It’s not something we see often at the start of a new series, something that you can read on its own and decide if you want to see more. The story itself felt a little slight in places; it’s an encounter against an enemy that has already overtaken one mouse, and the Guard’s attempt to stop it. It’s a nice character sketch of the three mice, though, and you really get a grasp for what it’s like to live in their world. That said, while I appreciated that the story stands on its own, what really interested me was the hook at the end of the issue to the rest of the story. It’s a perfect presentation, timed at just the right moment and with the right dialogue that you want to see what happens next.

Petersen originally self-published the first issue of Mouse Guard as a black and white comic, and that version certain had its own strengths. Petersen brought a lot of texture and strong, thin ink lines to the page, making sure that the book looked attractive and that it was easy to follow the action. He’s a good storyteller; the fight with both the adult and the baby snakes are drawn well, getting a sense of both action and menace on the printed page. What I was even more impressed with, though, is how Petersen’s transformed the book into a color edition for publication with Archaia Studios Press. There’s a beautiful richness to Petersen’s art now, and while I don’t know if it was produced on computer or actually painted, it certainly looks like the latter. It’s a lush look for the book, and now that I’ve seen it I honestly can’t imagine it every going back. This is one thoroughly attractive book that can’t help but entice readers into wanting more.

Mouse Guard #1 was a nice pleasant surprise; it’s well written and drawn, and it’s the sort of book where at the end you want to see more. My only real quibble is the lettering and how some sentences seem lacking in punctuation, but it’s a minor complaint (if really distracting to me) in an otherwise solid package. The book ships to stores this month; your local comic store can place an advance reorder for you using Diamond code DEC05 2813.

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