Sunday, March 23, 2008

Funny Animal Comics 2: Mouse Guard Fall 1152

Just as the last post in the "Funny Animal" series, I use the term in a somewhat sarcastic manner, as neither book has anything to do with the funny animal archetype other than anthropomorphism. However, nearly everything else about the two books is different. Whereas Fox Bunny Funny is some sort of ham-fisted statement about human nature, Mouse Guard is a low fantasy action epic. Starring mice, mind you.
Yes, Mouse Guard depicts a world of sapient mice, living in fortress cities. Since nearly any other animal has the physical edge over a mouse, the mice have developed a guardian force to allow for travel between cities and other elements essential for a true culture. This is the titular guard, and their trials are the focus of the series, which has a planned run of five mini-series. This one, Fall 1152, named for the season it depicts, focuses on a plot to undermine the guard and their capital city from within.
The art is an interesting balance of representational and interpretive, as most animals are show with a reasonably normal appearance, yet the cloak-wearing, sword-wielding guardsmice look perfectly natural. The landscapes and scenery are properly emotive, and there are enough visual clues to prevent character confusion, even if you only remember them as "mouse with green cloak" and "mouse with blue cloak and a stick."
The story reads like some of the better fantasy novels I've read in my lifetime, with dialogue that feels natural for the characters and their setting, and expressing the personality of individuals at the proper times. There was a decent level of worldbuilding involved in the writing, and it's never dropped on the reader in a fit of "as you know, Bob..." and there's an index at the end for details that didn't make it into the story.
In short; it's pretty, the writing is solid, and the world is never ridiculous, even though the heroes are fieldmice. There's even a few overly manly action-hero moments for nearly every main character. This is the kind of book that makes use of every vernacular use of the word "epic."

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