Posted July 10, 2013 by Alvin Minon in Comics

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Mouse Guard: The Black Axe

It might be a prequel, but in no way is Mouse Guard: The Black Axe inferior to other Mouse Guard titles. Pages are filled with thrill and excitement and adventure plus it’s the type of prequel that stands on its own and may be picked up by those unfamiliar with David Petersen’s world of chivalrous rodents.

The Black Axe takes place before the events of Fall 1152 and Winter 1152, and revolves around a legendary weapon that readers of Fall and Winter would surely be familiar with. Here, we follow the adventures of Celanawe (pronounced “Khel-en-awe”) and Em, last of the descendants of Farrer, forger of the fabled Black Axe. Em, after years of searching, finally tracks down her kin who is a member of the Mouse Guard order, and together they set on a long journey to retrieve the long lost weapon shrouded in mysteries.

All through out the book, there’re hints of ancient lore, legends and mythology. The search, Arthurian. The seafaring and journey back home, from the Illiad. And even Celanawe’s relationship with the matriarch Branwyn sounded like one of those classic romance tragedies. However, The Black Axe evaded being cliche and instead took all these elements and weaved them together to come up with a story that’s new but as rich as any other lore.

For characters as small as mice (but of course, they are mice!), David Petersen crafted a deep story running in a vast, rich universe filled not only with tales of adventure but also with dangers from floods to foxes and ferrets preying on the little folks. But still, each and every character is well grounded and easy to immerse in. It is easy to understand the troubles of Em, or the emotions that envelop Celanawe as the story progresses.

But what wraps it all up is Petersen’s stunning artwork that brings the vision to life. There’s enough intricacy that makes the chivalrous guards are distinguishable from the seafarers. Great job was also done on the details, which is evident in every blade of grass or grain of wood. Even if what we’re talking about here is a miniature world of sword-wielding rodents, the artwork’s entrancing that makes it easy to dive in to a world of furry fantasy.

It’s just hard not to love these tiny creatures struggling in a world that could eat them any time. These furry little guards might look cute with their swords and ships but Mouse Guard tells stories of their adventures, struggles and tragedies. The Black Axe is no exception. The quest for the weapon’s burdened with responsibility and oath, love and kinship, realizations and loss.Just as any other Mouse Guard title, both the notable storytelling and fantastic artwork merge together dynamically and beautifully to tell Celanawe’s tale. There were parts where there’s no need to have more panels, as the words do the trick to tickle the reader’s minds and incite imagination and emotion. At the same time, there were parts that felt like no words were needed at all for the reader to feel the thrill or shed a tear. And there were pages that you just couldn’t ask for more.

Perhaps there’s not a blotch that can be pointed out in The Black Axe. The story, characters, detailed artwork, pacing and cohesiveness all pitch in to make this one truly remarkable.

Alvin Minon