Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mouse Guard: Fall and Winter 1152

I read David Petersen's Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Winter 1152 recently, and then again for a second time over the past two days. I was bowled over on the first read. The art is beautiful, and the writing is tight. This is a comic made for the medium. There is no shortage of dialog and narration to be found, but the story is told in the art.

These books are square volumes, shorter and wider than a standard comic. It makes use of the size very well, and gives us a good number of full page and even two page spreads that really set the tone and also punctuate just how strong the art is in this. The characters are distinct, even though most of them are extremely cute mice.

The basic story isn't exactly brand new ground. It's a lot like a lot of classic adventure stories. It takes place in something akin to a medieval setting. It features a small group of adventurers on a mission. The main characters are part of a group of elite warriors whose heyday was in the past to some degree. There is a conspiracy afoot, and the order to which they belong is cast in a negative light. Along the way they have opportunities to face perils, meet characters from legends and fight foes that seem to greatly outnumber or outclass them. There are a lot more standard elements that I could name. Add to this that there is no way to avoid comparing this to at least the excellent Redwall series of novels by Brian Jacques.

Beast of Burden #3 came out last week. This also excellent comic is by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. I read the issue and loved it, and then my ten year old daughter walked over to see what I was reading. I explained it to her and showed her some of the pictures. The art in BoB is also exceptional as well as being very cute in places. She asked to read the issue, and loved it. She is also now a big fan of Mouse Guard. I was thinking about these two very different series, and started to think about something they had in common.

Mouse Guard and Beasts of Burden are both comics I would call 'all ages'. I would actually call them 'most ages', but either of them could be read to a younger reader and edited a little on the fly if needed. Kids nine and up I would say should love these stories.

Mouse Guard made me feel the same way that movies and stories like Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers and Zorro made me feel as a kid. It's exciting and full of action and adventure. The characters are real and flawed, but that isn't the focus, they are also brave and daring, and selfless in their quest to protect those they are sworn to protect, and to complete their missions for the greater good.

I highly recommend these books. Check your local libraries (that's where I picked up mine). And after you read it, share it with a kid. There is a lot to be gotten from the brave little mice of the Guard.


John said...

Great minds think alike! I actually just read Winter 1152 for the first time yesterday (though I bought it the week it was released.) At first I was worried what people on the subway would think of a twentysomething reading a comic book that starred adorable little mice with tiny swords, but within three pages I had abandoned such mundane concerns and become completely engrossed in the story. Petersen's storytelling is a great example of a creator doing more with less, as he manages to turn what might look like kiddie fare into a story whose epic tone rivals even the biggest of company-wide crossovers from the Big Two (specifically anything by Geoff Johns or Paul Cornell, IMO.) Never has such a small-scale story felt so grand.

Talkin Bout Comics said...

I re-read Winter while sitting in the little bleachers they have at my daughter's Tae Kwon Do lesson last night. I am 40 and I will not be ashamed at whatever I choose to read in public (ok, that's actually a sort of recent thing for me, but it feels liberating as long as no-one points and laughs). They are some really adorable little mice, though.

I really need to get these for my library. Hopefully I can do so when times are a little less lean than they are at the moment. These books pay off every bit as big as any adventure movie I have loved since I was a kid, and have real emotional weight, while at the same time showing good and bad with some degree of sophistication (The bad guy acts badly, but his motivation is acknowledged as having some merit, etc.)

good to hear from you again!

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