“Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard” returns with a first issue from Volume Two, featuring three separate tales by Stan Sakai; Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn; and Ben Caldwell. The three stories are cleverly linked together by David Petersen, writing and illustrating a tavern scene that introduces each of the tales.
Sakai’s “Autumn Tale” about an eagle that saves a mouse from a vixen, not to save the mouse but to punish the vixen was intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed the dark idea but Sakai’s visuals were not entirely successful, feeling too cartoonish and simple for this bleak revenge story. The dark story and light visuals might actually have drawn a nice contrast, but as executed they just didn’t quite sing.
Tapalansky and Eckman-Lawn’s “Leviathan” illuminating the further adventures of Tiernan The Brave, probably expands the “Mouse Guard” world in the most interesting and most vast ways in the volume. It’s also the story that feels the most faithful to the series, and I liked that about it. With beautiful almost unfinished feeling illustration work, and evocative coloring work, it was still the idea behind this story that impressed me the most. In just a few short pages Tapalansky suggests an event that significantly changed Tiernan The Brave, setting him on a bit of a new path in his life. It’s pretty cool when a short story can find that kind of significance.
Caldwell’s “A Bone To Pick” about two young mice that save their village from fox and weasel raiders thanks to some quick thinking, is the standout of the three tales for me, both in writing and art. The art had the most style and energy of the three stories presented. While the visuals are arguably the most distinct from Petersen’s style, they had the most charm and the highest adorable factor. With the exception of few action panels that caused some confusion, the art is top notch and Caldwell’s character acting is second to none. The story also had what felt like a bit of a departure character-wise from traditional “Mouse Guard,” but in a good way — it didn’t necessarily break the rules, but gave me a different perspective on things.
As with any collection of short stories, reader mileage will vary. On the whole these stories were enjoyable and did a decent job of further building the world of “Mouse Guard” but it wasn’t a volume that will stay with me the way much of the regular series has.