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Comic Book / Mouse Guard

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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 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 features 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 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 pick up where Winter left off. There is also The Role-Playing Game, 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.

The one shot Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver featured further stories from the world.

A feature film based on the series was in development for some time, with Wes Ball planning to direct the film and Sonoya Mizuno playing the lead. In June 2019, Ball confirmed the film cancelled, due to Disney shutting down production two weeks before filming and the producers being unable to find a new home for the project.

Not to be confused with The Mouse Watch.

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.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Mouse are mostly shown to be good-natured, while species such as owls, snakes and particularly weasels are all vicious predators out to get them..
  • Anyone Can Die: Heroic and villainous characters alike are frequently killed, and heroic ones usually bite the dust via Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Artistic License Biology:
    • Mice in the comic are depicted with three digits on their hands and feet, with two fingers and a thumb on the former. In the real world, they have four fingers (plus a vestigial thumb) and five toes.
    • In The Black Axe, Celanawe vomits after trying fish for the first time. Rodents cannot vomit in the real world.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Winter is coming." Also possibly a Shout-Out to A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Badass Adorable: Every single one of the Guardsmice could qualify. They're cute little creatures that look like they're straight from the works of Rosemary Wells and other children's book illustrators. They are all serious warriors who regularly take on animals several times bigger than themselves, and put up one hell of a fight.
  • 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 hook up midway through Winter 1152 and become this, fighting together.
    • Later on, Saxon and Gwendolyn become a couple.
  • Battle in the Rain: It rains on the Axe as they're making their way to Lockhaven. Not that it stops them from fighting hard.
  • 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.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: At one point, Sadie, Kenzie, and Saxon, as a rare not-completely-female Power Trio of this type. Lieam being the beauty (kind of), Kenzie being the brains of the group and Saxon being the brawn.
  • 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. He gathers an army and leads a violent insurrection against Lockhaven in an attempt to take over and become a tyrannical warlord.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Celanawe, Saxon, and Kenzie have one in the last Fall issue when they show up just in time to save Gwendolyn after she's cornered by the Axe soldiers. Lieam also gets one all to himself when he escapes the Axe's captivity and joins in defending the city.
  • Big Good: Gwendolyn, matriarch of the Guard.
  • 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:
    • In Fall 1152, Midnight and his army are 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.
  • Blood Knight: Saxon is always eager to fight, and frequently tries to rush into battle without thinking. When a confrontation with an owl is resolved without an actual fight, he is disappointed that there was "no swordplay."
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Saxon, who is hot-headed and prone to boasting, but for the most part has the strength to back it up.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: In Winter, we discover that Saxon, of all mice, can't confess his feelings. The object of his affection? The Matriarch, Gwendolyn. He can and does by the end.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Saxon (red), Kenzie (blue), and either Lieam (green) or Rand (yellow). The characters don't always conform to the character archtypes.
  • 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, who's both a skilled warrior and wise mentor to Lieam. There's also badass pirate-wannabe 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.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Lieam destroys the owl that kills Celanawe during Winter 1152.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lieam is friendly, but can't resist a good snark on occasion.
    Your commander lives in a rotten log?
  • Determinator: Lieam and Celanawe are this in moderation, willing to progress with their mission no matter what but not suicidally so. Saxon is a more bull-headed example of this, to the point where he needs Kenzie to keep his impulsivity in check.
  • 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 pretends to be a part of the Axe in order to get close enough to find out who their commander is.
  • 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.
  • Evil Wears Black: The Axe, the villlains of the Fall arc, all wear black armor.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Trio: Lieam is mediator, Kenzie is the logical one, and Saxon is the hot-headed and impulsive one. When Rand was around, he took Kenzie's place as being purely logical and Kenzie was more balanced.
  • 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 a swarm of crabs several times bigger than them. They get a few good attacks on them, but Conrad has to sacrifice himself to save Sadie from them.
  • 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 find themselves staring at each other a couple times 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, the elegant and charismatic Matriarch of the Guard. As are all the Matriarchs who came before her.
  • Holding Hands: Kenzie and Sadie hold hands often after getting together.
  • 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 badass.
  • Involuntary Group Split: In Winter 1152 Kenzie, Saxon and Sadie fall into an underground cavern, forcing Lieam and Celanawe to continue on without them.
  • 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.
  • Leaf Boat: Sadie uses a leaf to travel across the water to Calogero.
  • 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, 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 and is what the Big Bad uses to rally his army behind. Celanawe soon puts an end to that, though.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Lieam sheds tears when Celanawe is mortally wounded.
    • Saxon, the most brash and tough of the group, also can't help but shedding tears when he finds his old mentor's remains in Darkheather.
    • Sadie may be a girl, but her tears at Conrad's death qualify too given how she's also a capable warrior.
  • Master Poisoner: Abigail in the Winter arc. She sabotages Lockhaven's food stores, nearly kills Rand, and attempts to poison the well.
  • Matriarchy: The Guard is led by a female ruler who's title is literally "Matriarch".
  • Meaningful Funeral: Discussed by Sadie and Kenzie at the funeral for Celanawe, with the former believing that his funeral isn't truly meaningful since most of the mice in attendance don't know who he really was.
  • Meaningful Name: Quite a few:
  • 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.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Averted. David Peterson has stated he has no intention of introducing cats as he doesn't want to give the impression that there is some human town or city nearby the forest, although it's unclear if this ban includes wild cats such as bobcats or the like. He also stated he has no intention of introducing rats into the comic as they're an urban species of rodent and he doesn't want the mice to have a "big brother" species.
  • Moment Killer: Saxon interrupts Kenzie and Sadie having the moment. Deliberately too, since he's annoyed they weren't searching or him.
  • Mouse World: 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Redhead In Green: Lieam has red fur and wears a green cloak.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The brash Saxon and pragmatic 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.
  • 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 Millennium Falcon hidden amidst a pile of bones.
  • Snow Means Love: The first two romantic relationships in the comic naturally start during the Winter arc.
  • Snow Means Death: The Winter 1152 features the death of Celanawe. And in the snow too.
  • Suffer the Slings: Sadie likes her ranged weapons.
  • Talking Animal: This world is mostly populated by talking animals (along with some non-talking ones). Mice are the main talking ones, but there's more—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: The Axe Army lay siege to Lockhaven
  • Three Plus Two: At the beginning of Winter, Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam's Power Trio is joined by Sadie and Celanawe.
  • Two Guys and a Girl:
    • Kenzie, Saxon, and Sadie in Winter. They start off as part of a larger group with Lieam and Celanawe, but are separated from them after falling a hole.
    • This also goes for Celanawe, Conrad, and Em in the prequel, who form a similar dynamic between them.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Midnight promised to make Abigail his queen 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 bicker and occasionally snipe at each other, but are thick as thieves.
  • 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 inasmuch as weasels vary, morally speaking, about as much as mice.