Oct 27, 2015

[Comics] Mouse Guard: Winter 1152

After much delay in terms of investing time into exploring the surprisingly large worlds of Mouse Guard, I was happy to find that it was a fantasy setting I could appreciate it. Then again, there's a lot to like about these stories ranging from the rich complexity of the stories to the beauty of the art. It's quite the beautiful experience.

And of course after Fall must come Winter 1152 as we see our beloved mice deal with the consequences of the events of the prior volume. As much as they managed to quell the uprising led by a supposed Black Axe, now they still had to pick up the pieces and restore the faith in the Mouse Guard and the spirit of cooperation between the different mouse communities.

There's a lot of emotion woven into this tale - not that I'm saying the prior emotion was any less meaningful. But I guess it may have more to do with the sort of tales that are told in winter time. They're rarely all that happy through and through.

Synopsis: Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 is the second volume of the Mouse Guard series created by David Petersen. It spans six issues and is a direct secret to Fall 1152.

The story begins with our dear mice dealing with a very cold winter. The efforts to quell the rebellion in the last story arc has resulted in Lockhaven not having had sufficient time to fully prepare for the winter. So what they have sought to do is to unite the Mouse Territories during this harsh period and to form a sort of central council to meet and discuss pressing issues. It's also a way for Gwendolyn, Matriarch of the Mouse Guard, to negotiate for aid during these hard times. To this end she has sent some of her finest Guard Mice, Saxon, Kenzie, Sadie, Leiam, and Celanwe to act as envoys to the communities and to bring crucial supplies back to Lockhaven.

But as is the way of such things, events manage to have the mice separated in two groups after Sadie, Kenzie, and Saxon fall into a snow-obscured hole, leaving Leiam and Celanwe topside with important medical supplies. They agree that the best course of action is for the two to return to Lockhaven with the needed medicines while the three mice below find a path back to the surface. But deep beneath the earth they find tunnels that were a part of the Weasel city of Darkheather along their path back to Lockhaven. Leiam and Celanwe on the other hand still have to contend with the brutal winter conditions and other threats as they endeavor to get back home.

First off, Petersen's continued detail to making things feel real despite the fact that mice and other animals do not walk and talk and build houses is quite amazing. It's really easy to buy into the internal "logic" of the fiction and accept our heroes as the great figures that they are. And in this case, it means depicting how difficult it is for creatures as small as mice to survive in winter conditions, complete with just how easily it is to face consequences because of natural obstacles that affect creatures of their smaller stature.

I was most looking forward to the continued exploration of the character of Celanwe, the veteran Mouse Guard who was somehow the legendary Black Axe as well. Not much has been clearly established about this figure in Mouse history, but it has been quite clear that he stories go back way past the lifetime of any mouse and it seems peculiar that this older mouse is actually that same warrior. Through the younger Guard Mouse Leiam, we end up learning more about his life and what it means to be the Black Axe in a clear moment of father-son style mentorship.

Then you have the unusual tandem of Saxon, Kenzie, and Sadie. We've already seen how Saxon and Kenzie are pretty much an inseprable duo and longtime friends and comrades-in-arms. But now we have the introduction of this third Guard Mouse of Sadie, who is certainly skilled in her own right and quite the strong personality as well. Their adventures in then old underground weasel city do make for some interesting stories. And man, it's only expected for dark cave-like places to have bats, but Petersen really found a rather striking and memorable way to present them. I'm really trying not to spoil things here, but man, the bats are just so awesome!

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 is an interesting continuation of the stores of the Guard and a great story period. There's a lot of strong character development to be found here as we have these mice working together to survive, and all of that just contributes to better stories. Thus the volume gets 5 bats inside the Darkheather out of a possible 5.

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