Writer/Artist: David Peterson
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
Each issue of Mouse Guard has reminded me of a good Italian wine: a substance created primarily to subdue the senses with its richness. David Petersonís creation continues to amaze me with its dream-like feel and the absorbing artwork that takes me back to my earliest days as a reader. The artwork within Mouse Guard certainly reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are or any of the other hundreds of books I read as a child. The sequential nature of this work makes the presentation even more spectacular, creating an involving world that needs no words to entertain. However, though primarily a visual medium, this is a comic book, where story and dialogue are just as important to the entire product as the artwork. With that in mind, there are some instances in this series, and particularly in this issue, where story elements are a little unclear, causing the reader to infer what is happening. Case in point in Issue #3 is the scene in which Lieam sees the cartographer as Saxon and Kenzie create a diversion. Lieam asks the cartographer if he has ďa detailed map of Lockhaven proper,Ē which is the very map the Mouse Guards possess. Why would he do this? Is there something I missed in Issue #1? Yes, Lieam does receive a major revelation about the uses of the Lockhaven map (and the reason for the title "Rise of the Axe"), but Iím still trying to puzzle out why he would go to the cartographer and ask him that question. Kenzie said he had a plan, but he didnít appear to have time to tell Lieam about it since Saxon promptly created a diversion after Kenzieís suggestion. Anyway, Mr. Peterson, if you could clear that up for me, I would really appreciate it!
Despite my gripes, the main thing to take away from this issue of Mouse Guard is that the solid entertainment of the first two issue continues. The personalities of all the characters, despite being mice and having the same basic facial structure, are deduced rather easily throughout, displaying Petersonís effortless ability to portray these mice as sympathetic protagonists. Of course, I canít say enough about Petersonís art, which is breathtaking, dream-like, and properly sequential. I have found that I will simply flip through all three issues, just to get a taste of the atmosphere of this tale. Really, words are almost unnecessary, as the art moves the story along neatly, sometimes using a woodcut-like quality and beautifully washed-out coloring to create thoughts of the childrenís books of old. Also, this issue is a quick read, and I do mean quick! This and any issue of Mouse Guard so far takes all of five minutes to read, and thatís pushing it. For me, itís an aggravation painted with a silver lining. The artwork is so absolutely incredible that the speed of the story leaves me wanting more. This might also explain my obsessive habit of thumbing through the book every now and then.
However, jumping from fanboy to reviewer mode, Mouse Guard #3 just isnít meaty enough for a higher bullet rating. Petersonís care and attention to quality is obvious and evident in this issue and throughout the series, but I care so much about the tale being told in each issue that the story here is too slight for the $3.50 price tag. Yes, there is a solid revelation and a great battle between Kenzie and Saxon, but thatís really all there is here. Basically, Mouse Guard is a childrenís book for adults, no matter how you look at it, which brings up another interesting topic: Who is the audience for this book? A lot of people refer to this as an all-ages title, but there is certainly enough violence, death, and mature concepts to bar youngsters from reading this. In some ways, Mouse Guard reminds me of an old-school kidís book such as Sounder or Where the Red Fern Grows, books that stuck with me because of their power and insight, but also books that didnít worry about a politically corrected version of events for children, such as those that populate the literary landscape currently. I think this is the kind of effect Peterson is looking for with his adult readers, which I have to applaud. Mouse Guard is certainly a book that is beautiful and a joy to read each time it comes out, and I recommend it highly to anyone. And, if reading an issue makes me feel younger, so much the better!
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