This brilliantly executed, beautifully rendered trade is best taken to your comic shop’s cash register wedged in a stack of, like, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and maybe some porn comics. Hopefully the cashier will just overlook the 192 pages of cuddly mice warriors you’ve got tucked away in your pile of torture and sex mags. However you manage it, you’re going to want to buy this triumph of classical storytelling and colorful illustration, clerk’s arched eyebrows or no.
Petersen’s mad mouse-doodling skills make what might otherwise be a graphic Redwall rehash into one of the must-buy trades for 2007. Thick with whimsical pinup shots of valorous mice and child-friendly, mostly monosyllabic dialogue, Petersen’s tale of rodent betrayal, myth, and honor runs shallow on story. Summarizing the six-issue story arc — the Mouse Guard, a troop of rodent protectors in a medieval sort of forest setting, battle a seemingly inexhaustible variety of predators and uncover a treacherous plot — damn near infringes on reprinting the tale in its entirety. Sure the sword fights with snakes and the air-raiding bumblebees are more Rats of NIMH than If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but no amount of swords and sorcery can counteract the appeal of those beady-eyed furballs and their itty-bitty cloaks. Who’s a valiant widdle Mouse Guard? Yes, you are!
Laws against superheroes? Superpowers treated like a mental illness? Someone assassinating the good guys? This whole Civil War thing’s enough to make you suspect that those damn kids at Marvel been pickin’ at old man Jenkins’ crazy tree ’fore the fruit’s ripened.
Either that or somebody’s tracked down an obscure little book called The Watchmen that they’re, like, fervently praying today’s comics buyers somehow missed out on. Either way, your kid brother’s Secret Wars /Death of Captain Marvel combo is showing no signs of relenting anytime soon. The maxi-series is invading everything these days, even quirky titles with Class D superheroes. To be fair, when you see a premise involving a heroes support group, you shouldn’t be expecting Marvel to bring the A game. A comic featuring sweet-ass headliners like the Punisher, Nick Fury, Wolverine, or even Luke Cage slurping shitty coffee and discussing their feelings would do more damage to the Marvel Universe than all the Tony Starkses/government-backed assassins/zombies you could fit in a two-page spread. So instead we get ex X-Men (Ricochet), next-generation cop-outs (the probably 87th Green Goblin incarnation), and even girls. The story of the group’s struggle with a so-called superpower addiction after the government has come down on superheroes is saturated with agenda: gay rights, prejudice, addiction, etc., but never reaches a level of intelligent commentary making it worth actually, you know, reading. The art is pretty unappealing considering this is a major house publication, and unless you’re being an absolute completist about the Civil War, you can leave this on the shelf.