Posted December 23, 2013 by Alvin Minon in Comics

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 HC

I swear I would be eternally grateful to anyone who’d give me a copy of Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol 2 HC this holiday season. June Alley Inn and its patrons hit shelves once again, but this time in HC! For those who weren’t able to tune in to the challenge of June Alley Inn, here’s your chance to catch up and get mesmerized as David Petersen, together with a great roster of writers and artists brings us a treasure trove of epic tales from Archaia‘s world of Mouse Guard.

“Three rules: Tell no complete truths, no complete falsehoods, and tell me a tale I never heard.”

And that’s the contest June sets for her patrons to clear their long overdue tab. This time it’s not mice and weasels and owls battling with swords and weaponry, it’s mice besting each other with stories that are really clever, exciting or just able to hit the right feels. Now that the stories are all collected together, it’s easy to enjoy the anthology, going through the mini-stories while at the back of your head you think of the challenge at hand for the patrons. Readers may sift through the tales and try guessing which part’s the truth and which one’s nay. Whether by the end of the book you’d have your pick, it doesn’t matter as it’s June who’ll have the last say.

While the issues looked great on their own, I can’t believe how beautiful it would be as a whole. While the bar setting might sound cliche (or nevermind the might part since it really is), it turns out to be a wonderful tool Petersen has used to blend together a colorful variety of stories from the Mouse Guard world. Mouse Guard has such a big realm with plenty of mythos to cover and I’d say Petersen and his team were successful in doing that. The authors were able to write their stories with their own flavors, without straying off but instead showcasing the different lights that MG has to offer. While it could be hard for some to be immersed since it’s a collection of short stories, or perhaps the cohesion could be questioned, I find the structure quite enjoyable, and I see the book sitting at home as something I could read for enjoyment ala fairy tales.

A quick glance would tell you that the book’s filled with art that you wouldn’t mind your eyes being glued on. I’m referring to intricate line work and vibrant colors, mellow pastel and watercolor that are a sight to see. From Eric Canete‘s intense weasel warfare to Christian Slade‘s linework to Brad Thomte‘s watercolors. Not only do you have thirteen stories from different authors that tell different tales of mice and weasels and even dragons, but also thirteen stories showcasing different styles and takes on miniature kingdoms and warriors and the like.

However, all’s not good when it comes to how the HC affects the story and the art. Starting off with the story, quite noticeable is how having it all there changes the pace. What I was really pissed off, and also something I enjoyed too, was how the stories left such cliffhangers, there’s no choice but to wait for the next wave of stories from June’s tavern. Sure I cursed at the cliffhangers and long wait back when I reviewed the previous volumes, but it’s also that same gap that gives the series that feel of longing and looking forward to what’s next. It’s also that wait that jumbles the memory, allowing more room for more stories and somewhat lifting any bias you’ve had from previous tales. What happened here in the HC is that instead of several nights, it’s all just one big huddle of mice sharing their tales. Now, instead of the medieval feel where customers share legends and myths while gulping buckets of mead, it feels like we have mice scouts gathered around a campfire sharing short stories.

As for the art, well nothing really changes with the art per se. But now that you have high notes set by Petersen in the first few pages, it’s kind of a challenge for other contributors to pitch in without affecting that bar. And this leads to some lighter stories being drowned by bigger ones with heavier art. I’m not saying those with a more mellow take on the realm of mice aren’t good. In fact, they are very enjoyable and they really shine when you read the issues. The cartoony linework and even the soft watercolors are visually mesmerizing. Some are really cute while others have that heavy adventurous feel without becoming a material that younger audiences wouldn’t be able to enjoy. However, have them sandwiched by a majority of works with heavy detailing and intricate line work, it gets hard to notice and appreciate them.

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard  Volume 1 HC

But to make things clear, what I’ve written as letdowns are in no way reasons to be disheartened by a Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard HC. I’ve even encountered these concerns too back in Volume 1. These are problems that probably any other HC has, is and will encounter. More so if it’s an anthology that deals with tales of grandiose adventures, romance, and even tragedies. What Archaia has done here is something truly beautiful, taking Petersen’s rich treasure trove and allowing different writers and artists to breath life into the rich and vivid world of Mouse Guard.

Once again, I’d be ever grateful to anyone who’d give me a copy as a gift. Please? Pretty please?

Alvin Minon