I have been aware of David Petersen’s wonderful Mouse Guard for some time. Being a fan of non-superhero and anthro titles, it appeals to me. I also love that it is all ages. There is a lot to like about the world of Mouse Guard. In this series, they are telling tales in the greater world of Mouse Guard, and weaving them together in a kind of story telling contest. The book is an anthology, giving creators other than Petersen a crack at the concept of Mouse Guard, and allowing other voices to strengthen the world that Petersen is building. I have only read this third volume, but I thought that all 3 stories presented were strong.
The first, “The Fall of BrierWall” by Nicole Gustofssen and C.M. Galdre sticks fairly close to the look and feel of Petersen’s art to nice effect. The story is about a town under siege by a wolf, and the aftermath. The presentation is very well done. The story is paced in such a way that some of the larger action happens “off panel” forcing the readers to focus on the part of the story that they want you to follow. The second time they pull the trick of having the main large action happen off panel, it gives you a nice moment of having to reconcile what happened, making you do a slight more mental work to get to the conclusion. This was a nice moment that stood out for me. There is also a double meaning in the title that they tease out at the end. All very well done and within a small amount of pages. They can tell a brief yet satisfying story that still provides a couple of small takeaways.
The second story, the most brief in the book, is only two pages. It is titled “Fallen” with writing and art by Dustin Nguyen. This piece is beautiful and simple, really more of an excuse to take in some of Nguyen’s excellent watercolor renderings than anything else. The story is simple, yet makes for a slight pause between the first and last in the book. Sort of an intermission.
The third and last is a story titled “The Dancers” by Kyla Vanderklugt. This has a similar inciting incident as the first story, but one that is not too uncommon to Mouse Guard, which is a town besieged by a larger animal, in this case, a weasel. The story plays out more like a morality play in this case. I don’t want to reveal the plot here, but I will say that it is engaging and both simple and elegant at the same time. One of the mice characters finds an ingenious solution to the problem of the weasel, but that is not the end of the surprises. The plot winds down in a different way than I think anyone would expect. Kudos to Vanderklugt for putting together such an entertaining plot that provides surprises in such a short segment. The art is also something to praise. It is straightforward, muted, and beautiful. Using white space to great effect, never over rendering anything, and giving up the perfect amount of information to keep us moving through this nice little tale.
This issue had a lot to offer. It seems to me like you may have to have previous knowledge of the Mouse Guard world in order to just dive right in, but I think anyone familiar with the Rats of Nimh will have little trouble grasping the world of Mouse Guard. All in all a good read. Kudos to all involved.