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TOPIC: [2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe

[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 2 months ago #40533

  • jkthemac
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Issue 5

...and Back Again.

As I suggested earlier, denouements are the tricky part of these stories. Even some of the great story tellers either miss them out completely or fumble them. The story of Em's death, and the honour of the Weasels' response works very well, giving us that classic motif of a quest ending with the temptation to stay in the otherworld. Our heroes could comfortably live out their days in this land but they both eventually feel the call back home.

The call for Celanawe feels contrived, we have hardly a hint that he left a love behind, and we never feel its emotional pull. It is a good reason to return, and holds with the theme of the Black Axe being a curse as well as a blessing. However, such a key part of the tale needed setting up in the first issue, without this it feels like an afterthought.

Other than this flaw, the rest of the story is very well told. The sea journey itself even contains subtle reminders of Em, in their following bird migrations, as well as a nod to how Norse sailers actually navigated. The way that Celanawe helps to build his own legend; in the glossing over of details; the hints that he is the original Black Axe; as well as their composing of songs on the way home; reminds me of the way Gaiman handled Beowulf, and his exploration of what might lie behind that legend. I can't give much higher praise for a comic.

The way the narration stands at a distance from the voyage home, with only a summary, works well, a time honoured tradition of return journeys. The final scene is technically the end of Celanawe's journey, and his erasure from the records only enhances his legend. It feels strange to finish here with an issue to go. This would have been a good last issue. (I won't speculate on the conclusion as I can just read it.)


Score 4/5 Satisfying but flawed issue, exposes the separate and isolated nature of this tale from the main Mouse Guard narrative.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 2 months ago #40534

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Issue 6

A return to the main story, world building and the present timeline.

This story was wonderful, but it does depend on knowledge of the wider tale, and as such it doesn't really serve as an entry point. The blurb suggesting this volume as such always felt like marketing, and I was half expecting this kind of thing.

The links to the other stories are both subtle and foundational. On the subtle side much of the enjoyment of this issue for me was the look around Shorestone. Mouse Guard is an exercise in world building, and every time we get a peak at a new corner of Petersen's world is a joy. New readers wouldn't necessarily be anticipating such things as they haven't been seduced by the map, and by the promise of every town having a different look and feel.

Indeed even the earlier reference to two levels of Port Sumac felt like a promise to see more of that small town, and this too was delivered. I just knew that blood oath would never be honoured.

The other part that would perhaps miss its mark, is the morphing of the Black Axe mythology. We learn that the bloodline have always been guardians of the axe, and not the wielders. When we know that Celanawe has been wielding it in secret ever since this time, we get the full impact of this twist, but not knowing this leaves a gap in the narrative. This helps complete the story in a highly satisfying manner, as Celanawe's quest has mythically granted him the right as wielder, and changed the way that the axe will now be passed on. The heroic quest is often used in stories as a way of changing tradition, and this gives the whole volume a much better place in the story.

The final part, returning to the narrative of Lieam and the Heroes of the first two volumes, is a reward to the long term reader eager to see this scene.

I was pleasantly surprised by this ending, I didn't expect such a well considered and reverberating finale. The cathedral like feel of Shorestone with its muddled archives and historic carvings was a delight, and the half expected return to Port Sumac, was handled far better than I suspected it might be.

Score 4.5/5 I feel mean dropping half a point for a marketing promise I didn't really believe. For anyone like me who has read the preceding volumes this issue is a delight. For those of you left scratching your head over a disjointed issue I can only recommend the other volumes, they are each wonderful in their own way.
Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by jkthemac.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 2 months ago #40535

  • 600WPMPO
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jkthemac wrote:
For anyone like me who has read the preceding volumes this issue is a delight. For those of you left scratching your head over a disjointed issue I can only recommend the other volumes, they are each wonderful in their own way.
I can understand this. :-)

p.s. Great reviews. Also vote in the poll above.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 2 months ago #40541

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Overall

I don't think anyone would be surprised that I loved this volume, I would rank it as the best Mouse Guard volume to date, so one of my favourite comics is getting better! As an almost exlusively digital reader, (my shelves are too full as it is without comics adding to it all) this is one of those rarities that I will probably purchase as a hardback one day, mainly because it is lovely to just flick through. Besides I am loosing faith with Comixology now they have been bought by Amazon.

This is also a comic I would unreservedly hand to a non-comic reader, which is quite unusual. Although I love the medium I usually only talk about comics with people that already read them, so it is nice to have somthing I could theoretically lend to someone else.

This comic has been in my to-read list for ages, and if I hadn't suggested it for this reading club I may not have read it for a while. The time investment for reading Mouse Guard is significantly greater than catching up with the latest X-Men issue, the only current mainstream comic that takes this much time to read is New Avengers. When I can see hidden depths I stop and try to discern them, I will be rereading all three volumes now because this adds an interesting angle and I want to see if there were any hints to this direction previously. Besides, flicking through the second volume trying to make a quick summary made me realise I had forgotten a lot of what had happened, it is much more plot heavy than the first volume.

I am also tempted to catch up with the second 'Legends' volume, technically these are a way of producing more stuff while Petersen invests the time in the main volume, they are akin to a big publisher spinning off a side project with different writers and artists, but because this is creator owned it feels more generous and more fun.

This also leaves me with a common dilema, waiting for the trade. Mouse Guard just isn't at the top of my list of shiny things to look at, except when it is arriving as single issues, but at that time I resist, thinking to myself I will buy that when it is available as a singe volume. The problem is comics are so clearly marketed and evaluated as success or failure based on these single issues, and I am not buying those.

Everytime we find somthing good enought to savour later we ironically count ourselves out of this equation. I hope that the equation is less important to a creator owned property like this one.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 1 month ago #40777

  • kenjio
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Late reply here, I know, I know....

Initially I was skeptical, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, I was put off by the art and the lettering.
The story, however, was really enjoyable.

Despite this not being my genre, I'm glad I gave it a shot, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Looking forward to the next title (though I sense that interest in this is freefalling once again)
I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!
Last Edit: 3 years 1 month ago by kenjio.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 1 month ago #40796

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Glad you liked it, I was afraid I would pick a comic that only I liked.

I can see where you are coming from with the lettering, I think it is all one person's work and he can't get everything spot on. Also, professional fonts are expensive, and letterers exist for a reason. I guess he is going for a medieval feel with the lettering but it misses slightly, especially if it had the potential to put you off reading it.
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[2014-09] Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 years 1 month ago #40797

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I definitely wouldn't have picked it up spontaneously, but I really enjoyed it, so thanks :)
Unconventional lettering can do wonders for the style of a book, I just thought this was a bit awkward at times. I'm glad I didn't let that stop me, though!
I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!
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