You know, like a nice game of Mouse and Cat.
"Let me tell ye about the Guard. We mice have little chance in this world, considering all the critters that eat us. We know how to build our cities hidden and protected; deep within rock outcroppings, in tangled root, and beneath loamy soil. We survive. But how do we live? Travel in the open between our towns is dangerous. The Guard has been in existence longer than our history. They are the trail blazers, the guides, the escorts, and defenders of us."
Imagine a cross between Usagi Yojimbo
, add in some very lush illustrations, and you get Mouse Guard.
This bi-monthly comic book by David Peterson is published by Archaia Entertainment
and featuring talking mice
in a medieval-type setting
, where there are no humans, but plenty of predators.
The first mini-series, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
, starts off with three of the Mouse Guard, Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam, setting out to find a grain merchant who disappeared. Meanwhile, a comrade called Sadie is told to check up on a Guard Mouse at a remote post who has not been in contact with his superiors for some time. While performing these seemingly unconnected missions, they come across something else, a plot even more deadly than they could imagine...and an oldfur named Celanawe, who might prove to be a lost, yet vital, part of the Guard's history.
The second mini-series, Mouse Guard: Winter 1152,
deals with the fallout of the deadly plot in Fall. Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam, Sadie, and Celanawe have been sent to gather supplies from other mouse villages, as Lockhaven, the Guard's base, is woefully understocked. Things do not go according to plan, and they discover a dangerous secret that puts all the Mouse Territories in peril.
The third mini-series is Mouse Guard: The Black Axe.
This prequel reveals the life of old Celanawe when he was a young Guard Mouse. An old mouse called Em of Appleloft has discovered Celanawe to be her only living relative, and her arrival at his solitary post sets him off on an adventure toward his destiny...
There is a fourth series in the works, tentatively titled Mouse Guard: The Winter War,
which will tell the story of a war with a weasel warlord
that takes place two years before Fall 1152. Mouse Guard: Spring 1153
will be the fifth book, and pick up where Winter left off. There is also an RPG, which uses a modified version of the Burning Wheel
system and won the 2009 Origins award for Best Roleplaying Game.
On the sidelines, there is a mini-series called Legends of the Guard.
It takes place in an inn, where the innkeeper holds a contest for the best storyteller, promising to clear the winner's tab. The stories are written and illustrated by David Peterson's friends and co-workers, and are mostly non-canon, but offer beautiful illustrations and a good insight into the fictional culture being created. And, of course, Peterson offers some gorgeous artwork of his own, along with snippets of some of his own legends. A sequel is currently being planned.
This series provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Sadie, who goes in search of another of the Mouse Guard who is missing.
- Also Isabelle. The only action she's done so far is ride a hare in a rescue mission, but she's a tough-looking mouse with a red cloak and multiple earrings in each ear who comes from a back-woods town named Wolfpointe. Odds are she's going to earn the title quickly.
- And Gwendolyn, too, though her work as a Reasonable Authority Figure means we don't get to see her fight as much as other girls do.
- All There in the Manual: as noted below, the RPG manual has a large number of ancillary details about the world.
- An Axe to Grind: Celanawe, naturally, given that he is the Black Axe. Lieam, by the end of Winter. Midnight also uses such a weapon (and has an axe to grind with the Guard).
- Animal Stereotypes: Played straight and subverted with every species shown.
- Anti-Villain: The Fox in The Black Axe.
- Anyone Can Die: and they usually do so via Heroic Sacrifice
- A Storm Is Coming: "Winter is coming." Also possibly a Shout-Out to A Song of Ice and Fire.
- Badass: Lieam (who, early on, kills a snake), Conrad and Celanawe. Most Guard Mice in general can be expected to be one.
- Lieam also kills an owl in Winter.
- Celanawe kills a fox in The Black Axe story.
- One mouse in Legends of the Guard kills a bear.
- Badass Adorable: Every single one of the Guardsmice could qualify.
- Badass Boast: When Celanawe speaks with the Owl just before their battle the Owl says: "This Ends In Death"
- Based on a True Story: Invoked In-Universe in Legends of the Guard, where the point is telling the best story that is neither complete truth nor lie.
- Battle Couple: Kenzie and Sadie. Saxon and Gwendolyn.
- Battle in the Rain
- Bears Are Bad News: The preview comic given for Spring at Free Comic Book Day? It showed the Guard doing some very dangerous things to give tribute to an awakening bear.
- Bee Bee Gun: Lockhaven has a colony of bees, so they unleash them on the Axe instead of arrows.
- Berserk Button: Do not suggest that bats are untrustworthy to their faces.
- Berserker Tears: After Celanawe dies, Lieam visibly weeps. About two seconds later, he massacres the owl responsible.
- Big Bad: Midnight during the Fall story arc.
- Big Damn Heroes: Celanawe, Saxon, and Kenzie have one in the last Fall issue. Lieam gets one all to himself in that same story.
- Big Labyrinthine Building: Darkheather in Winter. It's so big, it stretches to the very foundations of Lockhaven, making a weasel invasion not only possible, but insanely easy.
- Bittersweet Ending: Midnight and his army is defeated, but winter is coming and supplies are low. Also, Rand suffers a leg injury.
- The ending of Winter is another one: they got the medicine back safely, and found their traitors, but Celanwe was killed in the process.
- Black Cloak: Midnight and all the rest of the Axe wear these.
- Blade on a Stick: Gwendolyn wields a mean halberd. Spear-like weapons are also implied to be a traditional weapon for the Matriarch.
- Blood Knight: Saxon. When a confrontation with an owl is resolved without an actual fight, he is disappointed that there was "no swordplay."
- Boisterous Bruiser: Saxon.
- Cannot Spit It Out: In Winter, we discover that Saxon, of all mice, can't. The object of his affection? The Matriarch, Gwendolyn.
- He can and does by the end.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Midnight, who is a darkfur and is actually the leader of the Axe.
- As a matter of fact, the RPG guide explicitly states that a mouse's cloak color is indicative of his/her personality and that their mentor chooses it carefully before they are promoted from tenderpaw to guardmouse.
- Cool Old Guy: Celanawe, and Conrad (middle-aged, whatever).
- Cool Sword: Saxon and Lieam carry swords. However, the first to actually get a Cool Sword is Lieam, who obtains a fancy gilded weapon for the last battle in Fall. In Winter, Saxon gets the sword of his old mentor, which contains a little compass in the hilt. Cool indeed.
- Cruel Mercy: Gwendolyn spares Midnight's life at the end of Fall, just to be on the safe side. She is not, however, averse to throwing him outside of mouse territory and letting the wolves deal with him instead.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Saxon and Lieam both do this at different points during the Fall story arc.
- Cultured Warrior: Kenzie, a capable if pensive fighter, is the one to give a word of advice to Lieam through a well-placed quote. He's also the one who always starts singing an old mouse ballad when the plot takes a meditative turn.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Celanawe and Conrad faced one in their younger days. They won, of course.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Lieam destroys the owl that kills Celanawe during Winter 1152.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lieam.
- Determinator: Lieam and Celanawe are this in moderation. Saxon is a more bull-headed example of this.
- Don't Create a Martyr: About the only reason Midnight isn't executed upon capture. Instead, he's banished beyond the scent border and left to fend for himself in territory infested with predators.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Lieam who pretends to be a part of the Axe.
- Due to the Dead: Given in a Viking Funeral. Sadie wants to return to a dangerous outpost to give one for Conrad, but Gwendolyn can't allow it until winter clears up.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Quite literally, in fact. The owl from Winter 1152 (and his subsequent battle with Lieam) first appeared in the bonus material printed in the Fall Collected edition.
- The June Alley Inn, which served as the setting for Legends of the Guard, was briefly shown in Fall 1152.
- Establishing Character Moment: In Lieam's first solo scene, he gets dangerous and takes down a snake several time his size single-handedly. He only gets better after that point.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The mice are the most vulnerable species in their world. The Guard was formed to protect them.
- Fantastic Racism: Although most relationships between the species are based on very real conflicts (as predator/prey, competitors, or pests), the relationship between bats and the other species is based on the other species distrusting bats, and bats despising them in return.
- Fantasy World Map: Well, not the world, but certainly a map of the two cities, Lockhaven and Barkstone. The hardcover editions of Winter and Fall have a map of the territories inside the cover.
- Maps of the world are included in the hardcovers and RPG.
- Two more cities, Sprucetuck and Darkheather, were included in Winter.
- Fiery Redhead: Lieam's not nearly as Hot-Blooded as Saxon, but he still qualifies.
- First Kiss: Saxon and Gwendolyn's first kiss occurs in Winter.
- Five-Man Band: One gets put together for the winter supply run.note
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: By the RPG rules, Lieam couldn't have killed the owl, and the snake example of combat gives him a rather extraordinary amount of luck, even after giving everything he has to stack the odds in his favor to a downright obscene level. Still, Rule of Cool.
- Likewise, Tenderpaw mice are supposed to not have cloaks, but their depictions in the artwork doesn't back it up.
- The Weather Watcher skill. Plot-wise, it allows your guardmouse to predict the weather. Since that's actually pretty underpowered, its mechanical effect is to let you control the weather. If you succeed on a Weather Watcher roll, you can decide — within certain limits — what the weather will be the next time it changes.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Sadie and Conrad encounter some.
- Handicapped Badass: Conrad, the peg-legged pirate wannabe. The reasons for his badassery are explained a bit more in The Black Axe, when he actually loses his leg to Celanawe and the Black Axe in an unfortunate fight with a fox. He didn't even complain that much when a tourniquet was applied, and he went on to become a legendary Guard Mouse.
- Held Gaze: Sadie and Kenzie realize they love each other when they have a couple of these in short succession.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Saxon and Kenzie, who are possibly too dependent on each other. Regardless, they balance so well that Gwendolyn always puts them together on missions.
- The first word of the trope name might have even been questionable, if not for the events of Winter 1152 when Saxon finally declares his love to Gwendolyn.
- And at the same time it looks like Kenzie and Sadie might have a budding romance.
- Because of this, some readers didn't realize Kenzie wasn't a girl until somebody used a male pronoun for him.
- On the other hand, Celanawe points out that Saxon and Kenzie balance each other out too well and they endanger themselves by having the other cover his weaknesses.
- Heroic Fantasy: Very straight forward. Except with mice.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Conrad, the Mouse Guard Sadie was sent to find, distracts the crabs so she can get away, but he dies in the process
- Also Celanwe could be considered one as well, as he fought the owl to allow Lieam to return to Lockhaven with the medicine. The fact that Lieam then killed the owl did not diminish this.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The secret tunnel into the Matriarch's study is concealed by a portrait of the Black Axe. Incidentally, only the Black Axe knows about it up until his Big Damn Heroes moment. This is later put to good use to hide Rand from his would-be murderer.
- The High Queen: Gwendolyn, along with all the Matriarchs who came before her.
- Holding Hands: Kenzie and Sadie do this often.
- Honor Before Reason: The Mouse Guard except for Midnight, the blacksmith.
- Hot-Blooded: Saxon, fitting his cloak color (red). This actually works against the group in Winter, as the reason Kenzie and Sadie are separated from him is that he can't keep his mouth shut when they are accosted by the bats.
- Im Dying Please Take My Macguffin: Celanawe passes the Black Axe to Lieam when he dies.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens to Conrad, when he is overwhelmed by crabs after his Heroic Sacrifice.
- Improbable Weapon User: Conrad uses a contraption that is basically a rope with a fish hook tied onto one end and a jug of rum on the other. And it is Bad Ass.
- Involuntary Group Split: Happens when they discover the cave. In Winter 1152 Kenzie, Saxon and Sadie fall into an underground cavern, forcing Lieam and Celanawe to continue on without them.
- Killed Off for Real: Just about everyone who dies on screen.
- Knife Nut: Sadie uses tiny throwing knives as her primary weapons. Lieam also proves to be quite handy with a knife in a pinch.
- Lady of War: Gwendolyn, who is the latest in a long run of Ladies of War, since the Guard is always run by a female mouse.
- Legacy Character: The Black Axe, as Celanawe passes the moniker from himself to Lieam at the end of Winter.
- Interestingly, Celanawe was never supposed to be the Black Axe, as it is revealed in the Black Axe mini. Celanawe's bloodline harbors the axe and find its eventual wielders, but by tradition they are not meant to wield it themselves.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Lieam gets this kind of look on his face whenever he's about to pull off the seemingly impossible...like, say, killing a snake from the inside or taking down an owl mid-flight.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Heterosexual Life-Partners Saxon and Kenzie argue so much that Sadie actually points it out.
Sadie: You two squabble like an old mouse couple.
Saxon: We do not!
Kenzie: Well, you do.
- Love Epiphany: Kenzie and Sadie simaltaneously realize they like each other. Holding Hands and Sleep Cute ensue.
- Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Rand wields a shield as his primary weapon, in keeping with his character. However, a gap in his defenses does leave him critically wounded at one point, so the title of this trope might be a bit ironic.
- Macguffin: The Black Axe functions as one in the Fall arc. Celanawe soon puts an end to that, though.
- Manly Tears: Lieam when Celanawe is mortally wounded. Saxon when he finds his old mentor's remains in Darkheather. Sadie's tears at Conrad's death qualify too.
- Master Poisoner: Abigail in the Winter arc. She sabotages Lockhaven's food stores, nearly kills Rand, and attempts to poison the well.
- Meaningful Funeral: For Celanawe.
- Meaningful Name: Quite a few:
- Saxon: "Knife"
- Kenzie: "Wise"
- Rand: "Shield"
- Gwendolyn: "White Ring;" her fur is white, and the "ring" part is perhaps foreshadowing her engagement to Saxon.
- Sienna: "Orange-red,'' a background character who wears an orange cloak.
- Midnight: Black-furred mouse who wears a lot of black.
- Mission Control: Rand serves as this during Fall. Landra takes over for him when he falls sick in Winter.
- The Mole: Midnight in Fall 1152 and Abigail in Winter.
- Moment Killer: Saxon, particularly when it is Kenzie and Sadie having the moment.
- More Expendable Than You: Celanawe explicitly states this as the reason behind his Heroic Sacrifice. This way, the Black Axe can live on through Lieam.
- Mouse World: Literally
- Somewhat debatable. There are no humans in the Territories— at all— so the world doesn't fit the "hidden from humans" aspect of the trope. However, the mice are hidden from predators, who often have their own cultures and live out in the open like humans would, so the trope is rather subversive in its execution.
- Natural Weapon: When caught by two enemy spear-wielders without his own weapons, Lieam improvises by biting the blades off of the spear shafts and hurling them at his opponents. Gotta use those sharp rodent teeth somehow.
- Neutrality Backlash: This is what the bats claim happened to them long ago, hence the Berserk Button referenced above.
- New Meat: Lieam is presented as Kenzie and Saxon's "tenderpaw" trainee, who, though not loathed, is still somewhat naive after two years of training and needs some steady guidance. And then he kills a snake single-handed...
- No Pronunciation Guide: Celanawe. This is lampshaded at the end of Winter, where one mouse comments that he thought Celanawe's name was pronounced "sell-an-a-we," and another points out that Lieam pronounced it "khel-en-aw."
- The Obi-Wan: Celanawe serves as this to Lieam.
- Obi-Wan Moment: Suitably, Celenawe dies in this fashion.
- One Head Taller: Kenzie is significantly taller than Sadie. And most of the rest of his fellow guardmice for that matter, but this trope's about the romantic relationship, so...
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Celanawe, in response to Midnight claiming he's the Black Axe:
Celanawe: You are not the Black Axe. I am!
- Power Trio: Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam are the main trio, but Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand also worked together in the past. A couple of trios also get formed temporarily. One thing's for sure, though...David Peterson really loves his trio tropes:
- Beauty, Brains and Brawn: At one point, Sadie, Kenzie, and Saxon, as a rare not-completely-female Power Trio of this type.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Kenzie, Saxon, and Lieam, a somewhat rare male version.
- Chromatic Arrangement: Saxon (red), Kenzie (blue), and either Lieam (green) or Rand (yellow). The characters don't always conform to the character archtypes.
- Freudian Trio: Lieam as The Ego, Kenzie as The Super Ego, and Saxon as The Id. When Rand was around, he took Kenzie's place as The Super Ego and Kenzie was The Ego.
- Knight, Knave and Squire: Kenzie, Saxon, and Lieam.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Kenzie, Saxon, and Sadie again.
- This also goes for Celanawe, Conrad, and Em in the prequel.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Gwendolyn.
- Redheaded Hero: Lieam.
- Redhead In Green: Lieam again.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Saxon and Kenzie. Their cloaks even match the colors!
- Red Sky, Take Warning: The day before the climatic battle in Fall 1152, the enemy army marches in the rain. Note the red-tinged backgrounds.
Red sky at night, Guard Mouse's delight. Red sky in morning, Guard Mice take warning.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Justified in that mice are the protagonists, and snakes generally eat mice.
- Savage Wolves: The Guard has driven predatory wolves out of mouse territories but they are still not a force to be trifled with, as Midnight finds out.
- Save the Villain: Gwendolyn saves Midnight from decapitation by Black Axe in the climax of Fall. Notably not due to any kindness on her part:
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Kenzie is a competent fighter, unlike most guys in this trope. However, his true area of expertise is thinking, and he gets paired with Sadie, the biggest Action Girl the series has so far.
- Secret Underground Passage: There is one in Gwendolyn's study.
- Simple Staff: Kenzie both speaks softly and carries a big stick.
- Shout-Out: David Peterson has already done two of these for Star Wars. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo can be seen in the crowd during the duel between Saxon and Kenzie, and on one of the Winter covers there is a miniature Millenium Falcon hidden amidst a pile of bones.
- Sleep Cute: Kenzie and Sadie in Winter. Naturally, Saxon makes fun of them.
- Snow Means Love: The first two romantic relationships in the comic naturally start during the Winter arc.
- Snow Means Death: The Winter 1152 cover says it all.
This is a winter not every Guard may survive.
- The Southpaw: Saxon is visibly left-pawed in Fall, wearing his scabbard on his right side, even. This might be an artistic mistake, because he consistently wears the scabbard on his left side in Winter, but even then he holds his sword in his left paw. There is a possibility that he is ambidextrous, or that he learned to fight with both paws if only to say I Am Not Left-Handed. Either way would suit his personality perfectly.
- Stone Wall: Rand, the captain of Lockhaven's defenses.
- Suffer The Slings: Sadie likes her ranged weapons.
- Talking Animal
- And more than mice—Winter shows bats and hares speaking the same language as the mice, and the owl has its own that Celanawe speaks. No Bilingual Bonus possible, unfortunately.
- Tender Tears: Em of Appleloft, when her loyal crow steed is eaten by fishers.
- The Siege
- Three Plus Two: At the beginning of Winter, Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam's Power Trio is joined by Sadie and Celanawe.
- Unholy Matrimony: Midnight promised this to Abigail in return for her help in defeating Lockhaven.
- Unreliable Narrator: One of the ground rules set by June for the stories in Legends of the Guard — they can neither be complete truths nor complete falsehoods, and exactly how much of each story qualifies as either is left as an exercise to the reader.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Midnight, the Guard's blacksmith, wants to make all the cities safe by controlling them and exterminating any and all enemies.
- Viking Funeral: The funeral pyre version seems to be the default for just about anyone who dies; the ferrets aren't shy about using their very cooking fires for this purpose. Em of Applecroft gets the "floating away on a current" version.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Saxon and Kenzie.
- We Need a Distraction: played straight, when Saxon and Kenzie swordfight so Lieam can find the map-maker.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Midnight and the Axe, want to protect all creatures... by ruling them all.
- Who Will Bell the Cat?: A fun take on this old myth, the members of the Mouse Guard actually volunteer to bell the cat (which may actually be a bear/owl/snake).
- Wicked Weasel: The Winter War of 1150 was fought against a tyrannical weasel warlord. The mice won, but not as completely as they might have suspected.
- Subverted inasmuchas weasels vary, morally speaking, about as much as mice.