BY SEAN CLARK
Author: David Petersen
2008/2009 Archaia Studios Press
I used to love Brian Jaques’s Redwall series when I was younger (and I’d probably still love it if I went back now to read it, which I now may), so when I saw the cover of Mouse Guard Winter 1152 depicting the cloaked and armed mice trudging determinedly through the snow, I couldn’t help but get it. This review is actually of two books, Winter and Fall, both quite short.
While the premise of the series seems almost identical to that of the Redwall series, Petersen actually creates a pretty unique and compelling scenario for his world. Unlike Jaques’s mice, who more or less live in a human universe all their own (i.e. trees and rivers are of the same proportions they would be to human characters), the mice of Mouse Guard live in a world where they are the smallest beings. They inhabit oak trees and rock walls converted to great halls, and the non-mouse foes (crabs, an owl) they face are many times larger than they in size.
What I liked most, though, is that for the most part, the foes are other mice. Mouse Guard is set after a great war with weasels has been over for enough years to be slipping into legend. The guard mice, once heroes, now travel between the isolated mice cities and act as emissaries, or as body guards to trades mice. The first compilation (each season collects a run of individual comics), Fall, concerns sabotage and insurrection: a faction of rebel mice, fearing oligarchy, attempt to overthrow the guard mice and establish a monarchical government. It does a nice job (as any first entry in a series should do) of presenting a complete beginning, middle, and satisfying end. Winter works more as an establishing point for a longer running series, opening the world and revealing a much broader setting for the fiction.
I enjoyed the art style a lot. There are lots of bold lines and colors, and the characters have a sort of badass-Beatrix-Potter look to them. The landscapes and action scenes are also a pleasure to look at. Neither of these Mouse Guard compilation quite manages to be the sprawling epic a novel could be, but they do lay the groundwork for a series that may accomplish that. I found these books to provide a nice, if brief diversion, and I’d be interested in revisiting Petersen’s fiction in the future.
Similar Reads: Salamandastron (Jaques), Watership Down (Adams), The Arrival (Tan)