"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 and Redwall, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
First Kiss: Saxon and Gwendolyn's first kiss occurs in Winter.
Five-Man Band: One gets put together for the winter supply run.note Note that this configuration only applies to the team interactions in-universe, and not to characterization as a whole. Lieam may be the protagonist, but he's not leader material just yet, and therefore he is not leader of this band.
The Leader: Kenzie is an experienced leader of Guard Patrols, and it shows in his level-headed decision-making skills.
The Chick: Sadie, who proves to be good at settling Kenzie and Saxon's fights, and whose relationship with Kenzie is the most developed romance so far.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.