I was never a member of the cult of "Fraggle Rock." Sure, I'd seen a few episodes, but we didn't have HBO growing up, so seeing it on a regular basis wasn't an option. Still, there was something cool about the world of the Fraggles, with the tiny Doozers building structures all around the Fraggles, and the world of the giant Gorgs that the Fraggles had to sneak through in order to steal radishes and visit the oracular Trash Heap.
If anything, reading the "Fraggle Rock" half of Archaia's Free Comic Book Day offering makes me want to go back and rent the DVDs so that I can see some more of this show. It's a marvelous setup, one that we see most of in the two stories offered here. "Boober the Doozer" spotlights the relationship between the Fraggles and the Doozers, as Boober sulkily decides that Red Fraggle is right and he should become a Doozer as well. Like the episodes that I remember from "Fraggle Rock," "Boober the Doozer" can be viewed both as simple entertainment and a story involving a lesson. Nichol Ashworth's script is about being true to yourself instead of trying to be someone you're not, but it's also funny watching Doozer's attempts to build skyscrapers among the little hard-hat wearing Doozers. Jake Myler's art is perfect for "Fraggle Rock," with a smooth and crisp style that nails the Jim Henson character designs. He's able to get that sulky look on Boober's face, and the shaggy mop of hair on top of his head is exactly as I remembered it.
The second story, "The Birthday Present," is fun if a little short. Sam Humphries' story involves finding your own inner artist, and here we see not only a lot of Fraggles but even a quick trip into the Gorg garden as well as the Trash Heap herself. Humphries finds the right balance for the Trash Heap's "help," guiding Red Fraggle down the right path even though it's ultimately Red herself that figures out the answer rather than the Trash Heap. I do wish that Humphries had a couple extra pages to play around with; it tells a full story in six pages, but some of the transitions are a little abrupt and I think even an extra two pages would've made it flow smoothly. Jeremy Love's art is nice here, because while the Fraggles are all perfectly on model, Love brings a texture to his characters that Myler's clean and crisp style doesn't. Here the Fraggles actually look and feel furry; it's a neat look and shows off how you can apply different styles to a media tie-in and still make them all work.
The second half of the book is a prequel to the eventual "Mouse Guard: Spring 1153" mini-series. Taking place between it and the "Mouse Guard: Winter 1152" mini-series, it's a glimpse into the world of warrior mice and their struggles to survive against the elements and other animals. Younger readers might not find Petersen's narration quite as exciting as adults, as Queen Gwendolyn muses about the troubles her kingdom is having. They'll probably be more drawn into the gorgeous illustrations, as the mice fight turtles and badgers, harvest honey from beehives, and ride on the backs of rabbits. Petersen's art is always amazing; who knew images of mice shooting arrows into the head and legs of a snapping turtle could be so exciting? His art style is lush and eye-opening, a near universal appeal. Archaia wisely advertises not only the two "Mouse Guard" collections to date in this book, but also the upcoming prequel mini-series ("Mouse Guard: The Black Axe") as well as a "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" mini-series where other creators get to tackle the characters.
Archaia's flip book is a nice way to spotlight two of their series; with "Fraggle Rock" #1 also already on sale, plus a healthy back stock of "Mouse Guard" collections, there's enough to make new readers want to see more. Heck, I'm interested in "Fraggle Rock" for the first time in decades, so I'd say for that alone it's a strong mission accomplished. The first taste here is free, but you'll almost certainly want to buy more.