Review – Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #3

From tales of seductress, real life spies to the tale of mice fit to occupy a high fantasy tale we delve into the next entertaining issue of Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. Archaia Entertainment and David Petersen bring us the third issue in this four part title.

The contest to tell June, the bartender and proprietor of an inn, the best story in order to clear a bar tab continues. The cast of characters in the bar range from surly fighters to bards to locals and every mouse covets the top prize. Once again the title brings a variety of art styles and story telling to the table which will surely make June’s decision that much more difficult.

Care to learn more about the stories within? Good, then please stick around and join me after the break.

As usual the bar scenes are really well written. Sometimes the conversations and writing in comics can be so cliché that it is hard to picture it actually happening. The scenes laid out by Petersen are anything but as the patrons take shots at each other, rate the stories that are told and generally just enjoy an evening in the bar playing games and relaxing by the fire. There isn’t anything that stands out about the scenes except how…comforting they seem. Does that make any sense? As the guard mouse goes to bed after offering his story (after all he has a patrol in the morning) a new tale is begun.

The first story is the tale of "A Mouse Named Fox," drawn and written by Katie Cook. The artwork almost reminded me of a children’s book. It didn’t strive to be ultra-realistic and had lots of bright pictures. Some foxes were unable to have children and were very sad. One day a bird swooped down and caught a mouse but dropped a bundle as it flew away. The bundle turned out to be a baby mouse, which the foxes raised as their own. The mouse named Fox would soon learn that he was not a real fox but still manage to find his place amongst his own.

After some ripe comments from the crowd, a mouse named Aynslee decides to submit his tale after seven games in a row won at a board game. Alas, those victories won’t pay a bar tab but with any luck the story of "The Critic," drawn and written by Guy Davis, will for the poor mouse. The critic is a comical tale where communication takes place in symbols. An artist depicts a tale of a mouse slaying an owl to become king and the critic decides to try this for himself. Things do not go as planned, however, and the mouse returns to let the artist know his final “critique” of his work. It seems that neither mouse was ever quite the same. The owls in this story were pretty creepy and the story had quite the amusing finish. Overall the art was simple but still managed to get across facial expressions that helped set the mood.

Next up is Ewyn the Bard with "The Ballad of Nettledown," drawn and written by Nate Pride. Nettledown is a town on the fringe of a river that was bound for flooding and destruction. One brave mouse named Doren of the guard came to the town warning of the oncoming flood. Before the town could be wiped from memory Doren does the impossible and not only saves the down but redirects the water to a new quarry. The means by which he completes this act is the miraculous part. The art in this story was closest to Petersen’s own in the bar and I thought it was really well done. I also enjoyed the writing as it was done in song form with rhymes and a recurring chorus as would befit a bard.

As the bard discusses tragedy avoided, one mouse begs to differ. How can there be tragedy after all if no one lives to tell the tale? Had the town been wiped out, they would have been faceless masses. Mourning for a single lost love however, that is true tragedy. Thus we get the final tale of this issue, an interesting take on The Raven.

That’s right, Poe’s famous writing with art and adaptation done by Jason Shawn Alexander and colors by Travis Ingram. Most people know of the raven and and Poe’s telling of a man's slow descent into insanity as he mourns his lost Lenore. This broken down mouse is more than done justice in this adaptation. With dark foreboding colors and a towering raven (the subject has become a mouse), this is by far my favorite work in this issue. The raw emotion drawn into the mouse is pretty incredible. For an issue that didn’t see as much action and more wit, I thought this brought it to an emotional close.

Curious what my art critiques amount to? Check out the interiors below to find out for yourself and pick this title up when it hits stores.  If you’ve enjoyed the first two issues you’ll find more of the same here.