Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mouse Guard Vol. 2: Winter 1152, David Petersen

I really, really like Mouse Guard. Perhaps one complaint I still have is that I sometimes have a hard time telling the characters apart, even though Petersen provides a lot of cues. But even so, his eye for silent drama is pretty astounding. Imagine the old Conan comics (not the later Marvel series), but replacing the voluptuous earthiness of his stories and art with a quiet, snow-muted austerity. It's just a beautiful little book.

This whole book, you just feel the cold, and the wet, and the tiredness all around. The main characters, members of the Mouse Guard, are traveling from mouse city to mouse city begging supplies from these member states to support the institution of the Mouse Guard during a season of deprivation and hardship. The party gets separated, and one faction winds up going through a haunted expanse of abandoned weasel kingdom, while the other faction, the more compelling one, is Lieam and the Black Axe, an aging mouse Dread Pirate Roberts who also serves as Lieam's grizzled mouse-Yoda. These two are just trying to get home, while being hunted by an owl earlier maimed by one of the mice. This provides the book its more harrowing passages, in a way that knights and dragons cannot any longer, by dint of their cliched familiarity. To see Lieam face down an owl is to touch the fright of really seeing a monster, really almost dying in its claws. Exhilarating stuff.