Imagine mice drawn by someone like Greg Hildebrandt with a storyline by J.R.R. Tolkien, and you might have a glimmer of an idea about how sumptuous the artwork is and how interesting and detailed the plot is for the engrossing Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen. My eye was first attracted to it while I was paying a visit to a local bookstore. The cover art looked pretty cool, and I was intrigued with the concept of warrior mice having adventures similar to those someone like Robert L. Howard, the creator of Conan and King Kull, might write if he’d chosen to write about mice instead of men.
First published as a six-part comics series (the book is divided into six chapters) then collected into a hardback version, the version reviewed here is the paperback one. It has all of the amazing art and the full storyline of the hardback version, with an epilogue, maps, and some never-before-published material as an added bonus. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is a graphic novel which all age groups from kids to adults can enjoy. The violence is not gratuitous or overdone, there are no swear words, and the action keeps moving at a good pace to help keep the reader’s interest up.
The job of the Mouse Guards is to defend “the peace and prosperity of the kingdom.” The Mouse Guards are a “league of scouts, weather-watchers, trailblazers, and protectors” who have passed their knowledge and skills from generation to generation. They have been instrumental in defeating such villainous creatures as the evil Weasel Warlord. In the calamitous, turmoil-ridden times of the Fall of 1152, they have a new challenge to face and overcome: an attempted uprising and usurpation of power by a heavily armed group of mice led by a mysterious mouse who claims to possess the axe of the legendary heroic mouse known as the Black Axe.
The story concentrates primarily on the efforts of three of the bravest of the Mouse Guards, Saxon, Lieam, and Redfur. Their mission at the beginning of the book seems simple - to find a missing mouse, a grain merchant who never arrived at his intended destination. Little do they know that finding him will embroil them in a fight with a snake, the discovery of treachery and betrayal, a stolen secret, and the aforementioned efforts by one group of mice to instigate a civil war and bring down the Guard.
Besides the well-drawn fight with the snake, there is a really excellently rendered battle with crabs. The fight scenes between the Guards and the rebel mouse forces are also spectacularly drawn, as well as the scenes involving the Mouse Guards meeting and fighting with an old mouse who claims to be the original Black Axe, and the resultant fire that breaks out from their encounter.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 proves that a great graphic novel can be about almost anything, if it’s artistically executed and has a good storyline. When I first checked it out at the bookstore, to be honest, I was a little skeptical whether or not a story about warrior mice might hold enough appeal to justify making a whole book about; but I found that Petersen’s book engaged my interest from the beginning to the end. A graphic novel doesn’t just have to depict super heroes in flowing capes to be cool; definitely check this out if you’re into graphic novels.