Like all of the best things in life, this book is all about drinking. Well, not all about it. OK, so it's not even mostly about drinking, but drinking is what gets the ball rolling here. In a framing sequence delivered by "Mouse Guard" creator, David Petersen, June - the proprietor of The June Alley, a pub for mice –- offers up a contest to her patrons. The mouse with the best story gets a pardon on his or her tab. All others have a week to pay their delinquent bar bills. The end result is three new stories from some fresh talents that some readers may be unfamiliar with.
Nigel sets out the first tale, lavishly illustrated by Jeremy Bastian, creator of "Cursed Pirate Girl." The story tells of a battle between two mice. Each of these mice serves a master: one a hawk, the other a fox. Bastian fills this story absolutely to the brim, going so far as to draw the barbules upon the feathers of the hawk. This tale has a twist and a turn, but the most important ingredient is that it provides the origin for the cloaks of mice.
Ted Naifeh, of "Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things," tells the story of Tristram's adventures with a bat. The bat, grounded with a broken wing seeks the aide of Tristram to return to his people. Those who have read "Mouse Guard: Winter 1152" know that there is no love lost between mouse and bat. The story could have taken a different spin with that in mind, but Naifeh delivers a story of bravery and trust. Naifeh's art is rich and deep with black shadows as befits a tale of mice and bats.
Alex Sheikman, writer and artist of "Robotika", finishes the trio of tales in this first issue with a story of Oleg the Wise and his weasel steed. Oleg's legendary success in war doesn't prepare him for the bitter end that Staretz (a mouse gifted with sight beyond sight) Sheikman delivers a twist that is surprising while at once reminding readers of how truly dangerous the world of mice –- even brave mice -– can be. Sheikman's story is the closest to Petersen's own style visually, while exuding a cartoonish playfulness that makes the end threat all the more menacing. Scott Keating furnishes the colors for Oleg's tale. Truly the colors (palette and patterns) help make this tale feel the most like Petersen's.
The framing sequence is everything readers have come to expect from David Petersen and "Mouse Guard:" beautiful art, lively characters, and an entertaining read that begs to be shared. Taking it a step beyond the framing sequence, Petersen provides a quick tale of the mice rendered upon this issue's cover. A nice touch for a series that works to help Petersen build upon the legends he has already begun.
David Petersen's "Mouse Guard" has grown in popularity at an astounding rate since it was introduced. The fact that Petersen could step aside and allow other creators to come in and work in Petersen's world of mice is a true testament to how beloved this property is. Petersen did a very good job choosing creators to share their tales with us in this first of four issues. I eagerly await the additional tales and talents.