Legends of the Guard is an anthology series set in David Petersen's Mouse Guard universe. The cover and intermission pages for the storytellers are written and drawn by Petersen. My love of covers continues this week but for a different reason. The cover for Legends of the Guard Volume #2 tells a bit about the history of Copperwood—one of my personal favorite towns in the Territories—and how it came to be a metal producer and earn its name. The cover depicts that key moment of the discovery. Also, it looks incredible with so much detail encapsulated in that one image, and I love the idea of a salamander pack animal.
Speaking of, continuing the themes set up in The Black Axe, this first issue of Legends focuses a lot on mouse kind's relationship with other creatures and the idea that some of them might not be that bad.
Autumn Tale by Stan Sakai
There are some cool things at work here in this tale. For one, Sakai gives us a glimpse at the inside of a mouse home and the more mundane facets of life. Little details like socks hanging from the mantelpiece (what mouse wears shoes!) and the ladybug pet nipping at a ball of yarn the way a cat would are adorable. Sakai's art makes use of pastels and an overall brighter pallet to the Territories that gives this tale a more homey feel.
My favorite part, though, is that very thing I was talking about above, the relationship between other animals and mouse kind. Mira's husband encounters a hawk willing to fight off another predator but for its own reasons. It shows a greater connection between all of the different animals out there and perhaps a kindness on the part of the hawk, who could just as easily deny her opponent her meal by having one herself. The question is even raised in Petersen's accompanying pages about how odd it is for bird and mouse kind to speak to one another.
Leviathan by Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn
Legends of the Guard is always at its best when it's creating mythology for the world. “Magic” has been talked about before in the series but never seriously explored, but in Tiernan the Brave's adventure that very thing is present. The little glimpses of Tiernan's later journeys set my wheels spinning on the possibilities and the situation he counters beneath the water raises even more questions about the workings of the Mouse Guard world. If there is such a thing as a Whale Guard, then how many other countless species come together to protect their own. How does a whale forge a helmet anyway?
Eckman-Lawn has a muddier art style, with blurry lines and muddled colors that bring out the true fury of a storm and the unfathomableness of the depths resulting in gorgeous set pieces.
A Bone to Pick by Ben Caldwell
Caldwell's story on the other hand is the most radical departure I've seen from Petersen's style yet. The art style is, well, it looks and feels like a Looney Toons cartoon. Characters contort their bodies into exaggerated poises to further convey an emotion, bright colors, overly complex plans, and comedic and bloodless violence fill these pages. Even a final punchline is contained in this tale!
That said, I have to give Caldwell props for two things: putting two lady mice in the starring roles and for giving us the glory of a fox with an eyepatch.
An excellent start to this latest batch of Legends of the Guard. There is some great variety in these pages that make it worth picking up and if you're someone who wants to know more about the world of Mouse Guard, like me, then this is a definite must buy.
Five Whale Helmets out of Five