Since every comic is someone’s first, the books have to be able to stand on their own. X Reviews one new issue each week based on their own merit (and yes, “review” can mean spoilers!) A good story is a good story, no matter how long or short the run. This is where we draw the line for…
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #4 (of 6)
Sometimes stories are so common, they become faded cliches of a once great epic. The small band of heroes fighting valiantly against insurmountable odds. The traveler trying to find himself as he helps those he meets along his journey. The oppressed rising up to cast off their bonds and confront their oppressors. How many times can we hear these stories without getting sick of them? Well this week’s book illustrates we can listen to these stories over and over … as long as there is something to make them unique.
Mouse Guard: Black Axe is the story of a warrior’s noble quest that takes him to distant lands and uncharted waters ultimately uniting him with a mythical weapon of legend. Did I mention the warrior is a mouse? Yep, whiskers and everything.
Mouse Guard: Black Axe is the third installment of a series of comics written and illustrated by David Petersen about medieval knights called the Mouse Guard who happen to be small woodlandy type creatures. Petersen has been building quite the epic since the release of his inagural title Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.
Issue #4 begins with main character Celanawe having been charged by King Luthebon, a ferret, to find a fox and exact justice upon the aggressor. During the course of the issue, Celanawe tries to figure out how one small mouse alone can fight and kill a fox in its own lair. Petersen makes sure to explain this is no ordinary quest. Normally such an undertaking would include a large group of mice not a single warrior and his axe.
Along the way, Celanawe meets up with Conrad, a “greyfur” who requests to join in the mission. For purely self-serving reasons, Conrad hopes by aiding Celanawe slay the fox, he will become Captain’s Captain, which I would guess is a high and honorable military position. Celanawe agrees and the two engage the fox in combat. Conrad attacks the fox with reckless abandon with his hook, but gets his foot caught in the beasts mouth for his trouble. While trying to save his comrade, Celanawe inadvertantly cuts off Conrad’s foot.
Ultimately, the two mice are victorious against their foe. As they begin to head back to the king, they find two baby foxes scared to move after watching the death of their mother. Celanawe tells the youngsters to remain in the thicket until they are grown and strong as they will be hunted on their emergence from the bush.
The story is very well written and although the art is highly stylized for my taste, it does pair well with the prose. The issue also makes incredible use of color to convey the mice’s environment. Earth tones give the book a rustic, hearty setting. Perhaps the best use of color is the washed out and muted panels depicting a the morning fog. At first glance, it was confusing as to what had happened, but during my second read through it proved to be a very effective tool.
Despite the fact the characters are all animals and there is no real gore to be seen, I would be hesitant to give this title to a child younger than 10. After the fox’s death, Celanawe takes a trophy to King Luthebon to prove the fox is dead, its eye. You do not actually see him cut out the eye, but he does subtly reference what he did and then carries a large circular object in a cloth to the palace.
I would give this issue and B+ and would be very interested in reading more about all of the titles in the series.
Mouse Guard: Black Axe #4 (of 6) has a $3.50 cover price. You can find more information on this and other great Archaia titles, by visiting their website at www.archaia.com. You can learn more about David Petersen and the world of Mouse Guard at www.mouseguard.net.
I am going to take this series for a test drive and see what happens. Well, what about you reader? You should give it a try too, after all what are you a man or a … nah. Too Easy.