I’m really enchanted by David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series, as I wrote last year after reading his first two collected volumes. I mentioned in that review that he was working on Legends of the Guard—it was serialized over the year and then collected into a hardcover this past winter. So many comics artist and writers loved the Mouse Guard world so much that Petersen let them in to play. Legends of the Guard was his solution to giving them leeway to create their own stories without having to fit them into his continuity.
The stories in this collection are told by various mice at the June Alley Inn, in Canterbury Tales fashion. June, the proprietress, offers the mice this deal: they can each tell a tale and she’ll pick a winner to have their tab cleared. All the others will have seven days to settle up. She gives three rules: “Tell no complete truths, no complete falsehoods, and tell me a tale I never heard.” Petersen illustrates the framing story and ties the tales together, but then each story is written and illustrated by various others in a wide range of styles. Most of the tales are relatively short; some are nearly wordless. But each has its own flavor and adds a little more to this incredible world.
I really enjoyed Jeremy Bastian’s artwork in “The Battle of the Hawk’s Mouse & the Fox’s Mouse,” which looks like old illustrations down to the aged colors and funny-shaped dialogue balloons. “Worley & the Mink,” written by Lowell Francis and illustrated by Gene Ha, is a wonderful story about a very persistent banker who goes to great lengths to collect a debt. There’s some humor as well: Katie Cook’s “A Mouse Named Fox” is about a mouse adopted by a fox couple who doesn’t realize he’s a mouse; “The Critic” by Guy Davis is wordless and the characters communicate in rebus-like symbols with a humorous result.
The stories (as well as the original Mouse Guard volumes) are set in the middle of the twelfth century, and everything has that sort of medieval flavor to it. However, some of the writers are better at capturing the feel of the language than others. Sometimes it feels like being at a Renaissance Fair with people play-acting and using lots of “thees” and “thous” just thrown in at random. I’m not saying that I’d know how to make it sound better, but I can recognize when it doesn’t.
That gripe aside, it’s a superb collection that helps to flesh out the world of Mouse Guard even though the tales aren’t canonical, and the variety of artwork and styles make it a thrill to read. If you’ve enjoyed the first two volumes and are wanting more, Legends of the Guard will tide you over until Petersen’s ready with more of his own tales. According to Petersen’s site and Archaia Press, Volume 2 is in the works and will be arriving in single-issue form this summer or fall—good news for fans of Mouse Guard!
Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad.
Fed to jonathan's brain | February 23, 2011 | Comments (0)