One of the (many) things I appreciate about David Petersen’s “Mouse Guard” series is that no matter how long it’s been since I last read an issue, jumping back into the thick of things is easy. So never mind the long delay since the first issue of “Mouse Guard: The Black Axe,” the second issue pulls you back in within seconds.
As always, Petersen takes great care in constructing the world of “Mouse Guard,” from the boats and docks and inns that form Port Sumac (complete with a duck the size of the mice’s boats idly floating next to them), to getting a glimpse inside a tavern named the Mariner’s Bell, complete with a massive bell at the entrance and a spiral staircase that winds down beneath the bell and its clapper. It’s hard to keep from thinking, “That looks so cool” with each new page, as Petersen brings a mouse-sized medieval world to life in inventive and exciting ways time and time again.
As for the story itself, it’s picking up nicely. Celanawe and Em are preparing to sail across the North Sea, and their voyage (along with new character Conrad) is far more exciting than you would expect. From a massive fish dragging the boat off course, to the dangerous tentacles of an octopus menacing the mice, Petersen is able to keep up the suspense throughout the comic, as well as reminding us that it’s dangerous to be a mouse in a world where so many predators many times your size exist.
We also get a little bit of back story this issue, explaining the history of the fabled Black Axe and why it’s so important for Celanawe and Em to find it. Petersen draws that section of the comic in the style of an old tapestry, which is a fun and clever visual cue to both its flashback nature as well as how stories were passed down during that time period. Just like Petersen’s regular art, it looks fantastic.
Don’t mistake “Mouse Guard: The Black Axe” for being a cute and cuddly comic because it stars mice. This is one of the best fantasy/adventure comics out there, and if you’ve been looking for an excuse to give it a whirl, the fact that this is a prequel to all the other “Mouse Guard” comics is reason enough to try it now. So long as Petersen keeps creating “Mouse Guard” comics, I promise I’ll keep reading them. Great stuff.