There’s something special about David Petersen as a creator that makes Mouse Guard such an enjoyable read every single time a new installment hits the shelves. Ever since Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, there’s an anticipation that comes along with Petersen’s work. The anticipation is part of what makes Mouse Guard an especially wonderful read. It’s the feeling of being a child again. The magic in these stories captures and keeps my attention, latching on and inspiring wonder and adventure. It’s like sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher read a story. That’s what makes Mouse Guard so special – the storytelling.
Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales boasts some of the best storytelling in comics today. The narration is comforting and wise, primarily told by the adult mice in the stories to the younger mice. It’s natural and while the tales contain lessons of bravery and staying true to oneself, they’re told in a way that is exciting and avoids lecture. It harkens back to the frigid winter season, bundling up in blankets and sitting by a fire listening to my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents telling stories of our family over the holidays. It’s warm, it’s nice. It’s something that resonates with my childhood that I think Petersen understands. He knows how to tell stories in a way that make us feel and care, look and learn, listen and understand.
Most of the stories are told through narration that echoes the panels, allowing the artwork to shine. While there is almost text on every panel, the artwork is at the heart of the stories – encompassing both action and emotion of the various folktales fluidly and effectively. Hard, defining lines hold the characters together, but the colors carry a softness that solidifies the delicate nature of these stories.
One of the most touching moments is the story of Gwendolyn, who hears the tale of her birthmother’s life of service to help feed mice from all over, particularly Ragnier the Hunter, and how Gwendolyn can one day see her again in Seyan, a mouse version of warrior Heaven that draws similarities to Valhalla. Petersen uses a subtle opacity during the telling of the legends that feels like you’re looking at an old photograph or sifting through memories to retell the tale. It’s just enough to separate the present from the legend and is an efficient visual storytelling technique.
Mouse Guard: BtBaOT is not just a collection of stories; it’s a collection of bright, beautiful life. Young characters in previous stories are shown as older characters later in the anthology. We see how they lived and learned from the lessons they were taught as children. That’s a major theme in this anthology. Passing on not just lessons and legends of our histories, but passing on the art of telling stories. We see this when once young listeners become the orators of the legends.
Mouse Guard: BtBaOT is written for both new and returning readers. The anthology collects 4 previous free comic book day Mouse Guard titles and 2 new stories to enjoy. This anthology of fables is perfect for all ages and will surely engage the imaginations of readers.