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August 11, 2012

Archaia Reviews: Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #5

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Written by: Jeff
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Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #5 (of 6)
Writer & Artist: David Petersen
Publisher: Archaia

Opening a new issue of Mouse Guard is like seeing an old friend you lost touch with for a while. There’s no way that this mini-series is monthly, as it’s been delayed frequently. The last issue came out in March, which isn’t the longest delay this book has seen. Despite the long waits, the consistent quality that Petersen puts in this book is comforting and welcome in these days when most comics have rotating creative teams.

This issue picks up directly where the last issue ended – with the unfortunate death of Em. Em has been the guiding character of this prequel, much like the Gandalf or Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Mouse Guard world. Last issue contained a great amount of action as central character Celanawe grasps the hilt of his own destiny in the form of a large, black axe. Em has been there every step of the way on this epic journey, and her death came abruptly, but expectedly.

Petersen decides to spend time in this issue slowing the pace down in order to explain Em’s death at the hands of a rogue ferret, and also getting Celanawe back home. First, Em’s death, while necessary to Celanawe’s formation as the epic hero, seems to have circumstances that are a little too random. She doesn’t sacrifice herself to the ascension of Celanawe as hero. Instead, her death is almost an occurrence that really bears no weight on the overall story. Had she been killed in another, more meaningful way, it would have held more weight.

The rest of the issue traces the long journey that Celanawe and Conrad take back to Lockhaven. There, Celanawe is met with more tragedy, which will lead us to the end of this mini-series. This tragedy does hold some weight on Celanawe’s character and helps develop the mythical Black Axe character to the old, grumpy character we met in the first Mouse Guard book.

Petersen’s art continues to be rich with detail and expression. Considering his anthropomorphic animals are more photo-realistic than in other books, it’s quite impressive to see the emotion that he draws on each character’s face, with a simple line or a well-placed dot. Petersen’s colors tell stories, as well, as Celanawe’s tear-trickle appears gray against his furry face.

At this point, if you’re not already reading this in issues, you might just wait for the collected edition. This is going to be a gorgeous hardcover, and while I love how Archaia publishes this book in issues, I would just as soon wait for the collected version of the next book.

Jeff Jackson



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