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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen

"But Kalpar!" my two readers are exclaiming at this moment, "Today is Tuesday and you update on Thursdays. What sorcery is this?" Fear not, gentle reader, for this review is simply a harbinger of a Kalpar-filled week for everyone. The lovely people over at Archaia Comics sent me four shiny comics to read and write reviews about. Now normally my review schedule is one per week, but I'd hate to stretch these reviews out over a month, especially with my ever-growing to be read pile. So I've decided that for this week I shall bring my readers four nice and shiny new reviews Tuesday through Thursday this week. Without further ado let's get to Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

Mouse Guard as a series is an on-going bimonthly comic book written and drawn by David Petersen. Mouse Guard originated as an idea Petersen had, "Mice have a culture all their own; too small to integrate with other animals." Petersen continued to expand and elaborate on this idea until 2005 when he began producing Mouse Guard. Today Mouse Guard is a highly-praised comic book which continues to detail Petersen's imaginative world and has won an Eisner Award. (Basically an Oscar for comics.) The book that I am reviewing today is Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a collection of the first six comics of Mouse Guard and resolves the first story arc.

I must admit, I initially had significant hesitations about reading Mouse Guard. I read the Redwall series a long time ago as a kid and ended up having two specific issues with the series which has made me hesitant to read other stories of anthropomorphic animals. The first problem is the fact that Redwall Abbey and the mountain fortress of Salamandastron seem to be the only settlements of any note on the entire continent. As a result Brian Jacques's world feels underdeveloped and lacking serious depth. (It also raises the question, where are all these huge armies of vermin coming from?) The other main issue I had with the Redwall series was the undercurrents of racism, specifically the assumption that all rats, stoats and other "vermin" are inherently evil. The most blatant example is in Outcast of Redwall where Veil the ferret, who was raised by the "good guys" at Redwall ends up evil anyway. You can argue it was because he was poorly treated by the residents of Redwall and pushed him towards evil, but the book explicitly states that he is inherently evil. I know that in many fantasy novels this casual racism is an unfortunate side effect, but to be frank it still bothers me. Fortunately Petersen manages to avoid both of these specific issues in his story.

First, Petersen appears to have created an incredibly detailed world and the map shows somewhere between twenty and thirty mouse settlements. I liked the level of depth and detail to his world and found myself believing that it could actually be real. I also feel that Petersen manages to avoid the issue of racism in this book by having the conflict be an internal mouse vs. mouse affair rather than mice vs. vermin. Petersen's ability as a storyteller and a world-builder are highly apparent and I actually look forward to exploring more of the Mouse Guard series.

This specific book introduces us to Petersen's world of a secret mouse civilization. In constant fear of predators the mice have built their cities in isolated and hard-to-reach places such as beneath trees and rock outcroppings. As a result most of these settlements are self-governing but are in contact with and trade with the other mouse settlements across their territories. However travel between settlements is very dangerous and travelers depend upon the brave members of the Mouse Guard as guides and protectors.

We are introduced to Lieam (green cloak), Kenzie (blue cloak), and Saxon (red cloak) who are investigating the disappearance of a grain merchant who was travelling alone. The guards discover that the grain merchant was tragically eaten by a snake but far more concerning is he possessed a detailed map of Lockhaven, the fortress of the Mouse Guard. Clearly someone has betrayed the Mouse Guard and the race is on to warn the officers of the Guard at Lockhaven before the traitors can act.

Overall I actually enjoyed this book. The world was well-fleshed out and I was left wanting to learn more about this Petersen's world. However if you're a parent looking for something your kids might enjoy I would definitely suggest looking through it first. There is some violence and while it isn't particularly graphic some people might find it unnerving. It's definitely interesting enough for both adults and kids to enjoy and I recommend you check it out.



  1. how cool! I probably wouldn't have given this a second look, but I guess you can't judge a comic by its cover :) thanks for the review

  2. My kids and my nephews loved Brian Jacques' books when they were growing up. So cool to see a graphic novel series! Thanks for a great review.