Experience Mouse Guard: The Black Axe Like Never Before
David Petersen’s Mouse Guard is a critically acclaimed fantasy series set in the medieval era and follows a group of sentient mice called the “Mouse Guard.” The Mouse Guard protects their civilization of mice who struggle to survive. Often, the mice face harsh weather conditions and ruthless enemies, such as snakes, ferrets, and even their own kind. The original Mouse Guard series is set after 1149 when the Mouse Guard had somewhat disbanded. They were no longer the protectors of the realm. Instead, they became scouts, bodyguards, and mercenaries who protected other mice from everyday threats.
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is the third volume in the lore of Mouse Guard. It is set long before the war of 1149 and establishes critical characters and events that take place before the infamous year. This version of The Black Axe, however, is a black and white limited collector’s edition. There are only a thousand copies of this version. BOOM! Studios went to great lengths to present a version of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe like fans have never seen before.
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is a prequel to Peterson’s original and ongoing series. The Black Axe is set in the spring of 1115, long before the war of 1149. Thus, it establishes several events that lead to the formation of the Mouse Guard. Additionally, it expands on the mythology of Mouse Guard. The story revolves around Celanawe (Khel-eN-Awe) and his adventures into the ferret kingdom. Readers will see many of the diplomatic tensions between the mice and the ferrets. As fans may know, the events of 1115 are important to the rest of Mouse Guard’s lore as it sets up the tensions between mice and the ferrets.
Celanawe’s deeds and importance to Mouse Guard’s lore are explored and expanded upon in The Black Axe. Additionally, as the title suggests, the black axe is just as prominent throughout this story. Its history is revealed along with its enigmatic blacksmith. Mouse Guard: The Black Axe’s story is a riveting one. Mouse Guard’s lore and history are fascinating and well-calculated. It has always been very easy to lose yourself in the world of Mouse Guard. The Black Axe is no different as its story is immersive and its history just as intriguing.
David Petersen has created an incredible fantasy series. Based on writing alone, The Black Axe is a perfect introduction to Mouse Guard for the uninitiated. His characters are fleshed out and his dialogue and narration are easy to read. Peterson’s writing style and the themes of his work remind me greatly of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and even a sprinkle of Margaret Weis. The pacing is great throughout the story, even when Celanawe explores the history of the legendary weapon and its maker.
Though the story is great and immersive, Petersen’s artwork adds to Mouse Guard’s immersive quality. Everything in this world is highly detailed and really feels real. However, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe was originally released back in 2011. It featured gorgeous, fully colored illustrations. This is the Black and White Edition–as I mentioned earlier–and it is a very limited collector’s edition. Therefore, what I will focus on is BOOM! Studios’ technique. According to their website, they matched the page size of Petersen’s inked pages. They used a vellum overlay to produce an effect that “[mimics Petersen’s] process of conveying weather effects.” Their intentions were to make the artwork look as close to the original artwork as possible. I think BOOM! Studios accomplished that in this edition. Their technique makes this story feel even more fantastical and adds an extra level of depth.
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe Black and White Edition is an oversized collection that mimics the author’s original artwork. The story is incredible and immersive. BOOM! Studios’ process adds to the collection’s immersive quality. For Mouse Guard fans–or even art enthusiasts–this will be a highly sought after/must-have piece of work. Some may look at the price and say, “Not worth it.” However, the fact that BOOM! Studios put so much work into the edition and that each copy was hand-numbered and signed by David Petersen makes it worth the price.