The wait for a new "Mouse Guard" series from David Petersen can be difficult for fans, which is why it's a relief to see a new "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" miniseries out just in time to stem the cravings. With Mark Buckingham, Skottie Young and Hannah Christenson contributing to the first issue's three guest stories, it's a reminder that there are still lots of talented creators just itching to tell their own "Mouse Guard" stories.
For those who have never encountered "Mouse Guard" before, the thrust of the series has been fairly simple: picture a medieval society with mice (as well as dangerous creatures like ferrets, weasels, owls, geese and so on) and you're almost all the way there. The various "Legends of the Guard" volumes have all let other creators tell their own "Mouse Guard" short stories, with series creator Petersen joining them all with a framing device. This new chapter has a series of mice each telling tales to an innkeeper, with the winner of the contest having their bar tab forgiven while all the others finally have to pay up. It's simple and to the point and allows the other creators to go hog-wild with their ideas.
First up is Buckingham, a smart choice since his story "The Gosling and the Ghost" is the most traditional of the three. It's a simple enough story, with a member of the Mouse Guard helping a local miller stop a greedy goose who keeps breaking in and stealing all of the grain. Buckingham sets the defeat of the goose up in a simple enough manner, first showing us a loss for the guardsman before his coming back around with a less traditional solution. The story is simple enough, but the art is attractive. I love the depiction of the ghost and how Buckingham brings it to life.
Young's "The Mouse and the Moon" reminds me a bit of a fairy tale, something that Young himself no doubt hopes to evoke with the story of a father mouse telling his child how he discovered what the moon was really made of. The story is very simple and, at a glance, the art certainly strays the furthest away from the normal look of "Mouse Guard." Young's mice don't wear the medieval garb that Petersen gives them (or, in fact, any clothing at all) and the overall society is missing too, but it's charming with its exaggerated art and day-glo colors. The story itself has two endings: the father's discovery of the moon's secret and then what he tells his child. The former has some of the best art of the story -- it will make your heart melt when you see it for yourself -- and the latter is a nice, slightly unexpected conclusion to the story that pulls it all together. "The Mouse and the Moon" may not entirely fit the world of "Mouse Guard," but that's part of the joy of "Legends of the Guard," in that it gives other creators the freedom to tell ones that may not entirely click into place but still have a sense of wonder and adventure.
Christenson's "The Armor Maker" wraps up the first issue, and it's also positioned perfectly. Christenson's story of an armorer mouse who is forced to rethink his understanding of what makes a hero doesn't have a big, bombastic plot; it's a small character piece where the only struggle is an internal barrier. It doesn't have any surprises, but it doesn't need them either. It's a quiet, well-constructed story that gets in and out and tells what it needs to. This is in no small part to Christenson's art, which is probably the closest this issue gets to Petersen's style, while still having its own distinct look. Christenson's art uses small, thin, intricate lines to provide some amazing details here. The armorer mouse's finished suits of armor are beautiful, with carefully shaped metal and engravings on their surface. There's one page in particular where we essentially see the anatomy of a mouse knight's armor, and I actually gave off a little gasp because it's so perfectly drawn. It's a smart way to end the first issue; Christenson definitely understands the world of "Mouse Guard."
The wait for a new "Mouse Guard" miniseries from Petersen is hard for those of us who have been reading the comic since its beginning, but "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 3" looks to ease those pangs somewhat. If the remaining creators are as good as the ones for issue #1, we're in for a fun ride.