Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Review rAnting – Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

I don’t normally post reviews, although I thought I’d try my hand at it. Today, let’s take a look-see at David Petersen’s Mouse Guard: Fall1152. This was my first foray into the world of the Mouse Guard, and let me say it was quite the enjoyable visit.

Visually, the book is striking. Images are lush, and the storytelling is top-notch. Petersen does a fantastic job establishing a milieu that is rich in sensory detail. This is a dirty, gritty, old world, and the author masterfully draws you into it. As you read, you can feel the heat from the bellows, smell the bread baking in the ovens, and hear the rain spattering in the mud. Throughout, Petersen strikes a perfect balance between cartoony and realistic, creating cute little critters while pulling off blood splatter and hints of gore. This is a violent, brutal world, in spite of the pinch-their-cheeks mice that populate it.

As for the story itself, Petersen displays an exceptional sense of pacing, picking up the action when needed, and using still images and transitional frames throughout to create a compelling narrative. He’s not afraid to pause and let us spend a little time lingering in the world of the Mouse Guard, and the story is all the better for it. The world he creates has a rich history, and the glimpses of it we see in this volume hint at even greater stories to come.

Quibbles? I’m not a huge fan of the computer-generated lettering, which feels slightly inorganic as an overlay on top of the rich, textured and carefully-crafted images. Even here, however, Petersen manages a few storytelling flourishes, using overlapping text bubbles to show characters’ overlapping dialogue. Throughout, his minimalistic approach to text, putting the bulk of the storytelling on the shoulders of the visuals, is a wise choice, and mitigates this concern. If dialogue and captions dominated the pages, the use of computer-generated lettering would have been a distraction – as it is, I’m really looking for something to critique.

In the final analysis, Mouse Guard is worthy of all of the praise that has been heaped upon it. If you haven’t read the book yet, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy and get to it. I’d definitely recommend the collection instead of individual issues of the comic – the slower, more methodical pacing lends itself perfectly to the longer graphic novel format.

Five out of five stars

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