Page 45 Review by Stephen
If you're looking for a MOUSE GUARD entry point, we recommend MOUSE GUARD: BLACK AXE which takes place before the first two and features some sequences worthy of Arthur Rackham himself, along with his colour palette. The series is set in a feudal society of anthropomorphic mice governed by a matriarch. Interestingly, most of the other animals have no human traits and are mostly feral predators.
Here for the third time creator David Petersen provides the linking sequences as patrons of the June Alley Inn are invited by its proprietor to sing for their supper - or, in this case, tell stories in a bid to have their tabs cleared in full.
They are, of course, actually told by guest writers and / or artists in a variety of styles from Skottie Young's exuberant cartoon line work (see ROCKET RACCOON) to Ryan Lang's hyper-real, computer-generated 3-D modelling. Normally the latter doesn't do it for me, but 'The Watcher's Stone' is a lambently lit tale of bravery and resourcefulness turning one ill against another to save a small, embattled town struck down by sickness and starved while under siege by a formidable foe.
My favourite, however, came from Hannah Christenson whose mice are so lean and tufted that you can almost feel their silky fur as well as the hard skulls underneath. 'The Armor Maker' stars a blacksmith who dreams of battle and, so inspired, takes enormous pride in his commissions, creating elaborately engraved, gold and gleaming armour which at one point positively dances across the page along with its attendant weaponry, while the tools of his trade hang as if suspended in air. There's another composition as organic as J.H. Williams III is wont to work with.
Becky Cloonan's contribution is customarily spooky and all the original covers are reproduced as double-page spreads in the back, along with cast and creator note and two cut-away, three-dimensional floor plans for the June Alley Inn's ground floor and dormitories above.
Yes, don't imagine Petersen's on holiday: his patrons are dressed to reflect their individuality and even the simplest stairwell is transformed under his eye for detail into a grained wooden structure which could conceivably creak.