I’ve appreciated that David Petersen’s been letting other comic creators play in his “Mouse Guard” world, creating their own stories of valiant mice who live in a medieval styled world where hawks, foxes, and other wild beasts are the enemy. Generally, it’s been fun to watch everyone’s own particular take on the concept and basics that make Petersen’s series such a smash hit.
With that said, though, “Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard” #3 is probably the weakest issue to date. It’s not that any of the stories are bad, but there aren’t any entries that stand out as great like the previous two issues offered up.
Still, each entry does offer something up for the reader’s enjoyment. Katie Cook’s “A Mouse Named Fox” is short and sweet, with a children’s storybook style of art as a young mouse raised by a pair of foxes discovers that most foxes are not friends at all, but uses that to his advantage. It’s cute, and while you see the ending coming the second the final piece is set into place, it’s an amusing opening for the book. It feels almost like one of Aesop’s fables, and that’s a tactic that fits well with the idea of “Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard,” but the one down side is that doesn’t ever feel like there’s any real danger, an element that’s normally present in a “Mouse Guard” story.
Guy Davis’ “The Critic” is a silent story about heroism and art. The high point here is easily looking at the dark and gloomy scenes as Davis’ mouse faces off against a tree full of owls. It’s a great, powerful splash, and while the story itself is rather slight, it’s almost all worth it for that one image. That’s true also for Jason Shawn Alexander’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Versions of Poe’s creepy poem are a dime a dozen, but Alexander draws a particularly grim raven, and in general it’s nice to see Alexander’s dark masses of ink splatter across the page.
Nate Pride’s “The Ballad of Nettledown” appears to also take inspiration from a classic story, in this case part of “The Five Chinese Brothers.” It’s a cute story (and his image of the swollen Doren is fairly hysterical), but at just three pages long it’s so short that it’s barely gotten started before it’s over. Pride’s story is supposed to be a bard’s ballad, and while he gets the meter and rhyme down, it leaves the overall feel of the story slightly cold without any actual dialogue.
“Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard” #3 is a cute comic, and at the end of the day it was nice to take the time to read it, but none of the stories managed to stand out and make me think about it a few hours later. All the stories are good enough, but I wish this issue’s mix had included one that was great, too. Still, if the worst an anthology ever gets is “just good,” well, that’s not a bad target to hit.