Now Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 isn't quite the sort of "hardcore" fantasy you'd expect. Thus far the world does not involve magic of any sort or far-flung worlds dominated by faeries and such. Instead we have an almost secret world under our noses - one where mice are as sentient as we are and have their own community.
They are still mice. They have all the limitations of being mice. They still have the same predators to fear as mice. But they are also much more.
Synopsis: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is the first volume of David Petersen's comic book series. The 6-issue mini-series was published by Archaia Studio Press.
In this comic book world, the various mouse communities rely on the Mouse Guard to escort them from one city to another. They Mouse Guard are knights of a sort who serve all of the mouse cities equally but do not own any individual ones any true fealty. They all serve Gwendolyn, who is the matriarch of the Guard and is in charge of leading all of her mice in their various missions. And the story begins as a humble mouse grain farmer never arrives at his destination and a small detachment of Guard Mice is sent to investigate his disappearance and either find him or determine what his final fate was.
Thus our story really begins as we follow these three members of the Guard, Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam. And in their investigation they will face dangers such as a snake and a greater conspiracy involving a traitor who means to bring down Lockhaven, the home of the Mouse Guard itself. We also follow the story of Sadie, another Guard Mouse, who is sent by Gwendolyn to each out to Conrad, who mans a Northern outpost Calogero.
First, what initially jars anyone who sees this comic is just how beautiful Petersen's art is. This is truly a labor of love and he has found a way to depict his mice in a manner that is both realistic and yet not too realistic. Too much realism would dispel the illusion and the sense of wonder of the story. Just enough fantasy allows these little mice take on true character as you get to see their expressions and feel their pain. And that takes quite some skill to convey with static images of mice with cloaks.
And it's not like the mice go out of their way to being human-like in their behavior. Various degrees of clothing are acceptable to drive things and yet you don't feel like they're naked either. You pick up on how mice are recognized based on the color of their fur, but also by the color of their cloaks, at least when it comes to the Guard itself.
The story of the Mouse Guard is a complicated one as you have a much larger faction at work that is trying to bring down Lockhaven and the Guard itself. And how this was depicted first involved building up just how big mouse society is without slowing the story down with unnecessary exposition or anything like that. But the time things come around, the plan makes sense and the way their society is structured makes sense and you will be rooting for the mice.
And the action is quite palpable - again thanks to Petersen's art. As much as I've praised how beautiful the comic is just before this, it's also quite vivid and breathtaking and all in all brilliant in so many ways. Seriously, as a man who likes his spaceships and his robots, it's not everyday that I'm blown away by a mouse holding half a sword trying to fight off, well, other mice. It's a serious comic that knows how to balance lighter moments and yet remains focused on the story it wants to tell.
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 is the start of a greater journey into a series of stories about the Mouse Guard and their charges. And it's a journey that is certainly worth taking, and thus it's clear why this comic has become as famous as it has. Thus the comic gets a worthy 5 titanic battles of noble Mice out of a possible 5.