When I mentioned about the return of Frank Black, I was serious about picking up the first issue at the comic shop which took about a few weeks of waiting. Last Friday, I visited Earth Prime Comics in Burlington, VT prior to heading out to a Death concert ( which is a great band, by the way ) and waited until the manager was done talking to a customer. As the guy was leaving, the manager tossed the comic to my direction with enthusiastic glee stating that it has arrived.
And while I was there, I decided to pick up a hardcover copy of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe which I've been meaning to read for ages which I'll get to momentarily.
The poor weather actually forced me to stay in at home over that weekend which allowed me the time to catch up and read. Millennium, as I've mentioned, is one of my favorite shows of all time from the late 1990s before its cancellation which bummed me out for years. It was not until recently that IDW Publishing let the cat out of the bag that Frank Black would return. I was so ecstatic about the show's return in print format as I've almost come close to producing my own comic fan fiction of Millennium earlier on. It was such a good thing that they got the license to do it.
After reading it, I thought it was off to a good start, despite other reviewers thinking it was slow or boring. In fact, it was appropos. I won't reveal too much about it but the way it begins in the X-Files universe was a good starting point in order for Frank Black to make an appearance, thanks to Mulder's presence and insistence in following up on a certain case. In this new 'season', Frank and his daughter are estranged and I suspect she's much older, probably at the same age of the same actress Brittany Tiplady who was in that role in the show.
The sense of darkness and dread is there which is helped by the art of Colin Lorimer's use of shadows and noir. Especially the latter in which the cinematography of the show is honored in this comic. It is also noted by the fact that Joe Harris is writing it. If what I read is indeed a return to the flavor of Millennium's second season, then I'm a happy camper because it's exactly what the third season should've been, relating to the supernatural.
It's a nice slow burn and I can't help but think this story is a vehicle to introduce Mulder right off the bat and rope Frank back into the darkness, and thanks to the dark machinations of The Millennium Group's scheme that set things off in motion. Then, eventually the X-Files-verse will exit and all the focus will be on Frank. I think it's a good idea and hope they manage to pull this off. It's actually appropriate considering the way they met before in a crossover storyline in an X-Files episode that concluded the Millennium series, some time after it got cancelled.
For those who are fans of Millennium, I highly recommend it.
This Is Who We Are.
Now, on to Mouse Guard: The Black Axe. . .
This hardcover edition is actually a collection of single issues of " The Black Axe " which is a prequel and origin of the character Celenawe. It is published by Archaia Entertainment and created by David Petersen who continues to amaze me with the longevity of this series. In order to understand The Black Axe, one would have to read the first two volumes " Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 " and " Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 " in which Celenawe appears. The Black Axe has been a mystery at the time until the particular title was released.
Petersen also published " Legends of the Guard " Volume One which I have, although I'm missing the second.
Like usual, his art in the Black Axe is stunning with beautiful clean black lines and stippling effect, including the coloring.But what sets it apart from other anthropomorphic comics like Mice Templar is the sense of story telling and pacing. Every time I open up a Mouse Guard story to read, it has a sense of quietitude and environs of low fantasy without magic. But also the character development is brilliant. They are as real as you and me without the shallowness. The sense of danger they deal with daily is harrowing as survival is imperative, not too different than what the europeans had to deal with in the times of The Black Death.
And when you see the pain Celanawe puts up with, it hits you. Especially the one scene in this book when he returns to Lockhaven in secret. Being a Black Axe is such a huge responsibility which I can see why he's put in the situation he's in, but I can't but wonder what would happen if such rules were to be changed and how that could affect the society of guard mice.
The Black Axe is essentially an origin story of how he came to be and the history of this particular weapon. I loved how he added some maps and cutaway diagrams of buildings near the end of the hardcover as bonuses. But what impressed me was in between chapters, he put in medieval styled tapestries with symbols and inscriptions relating to the stories regarding the black axe's history. The world-building in Mouse Guard was well thought out since the creator knew exactly where he was going telling the story. World building, I think, is an important art form to have in order to make something believable without having it fall apart, the latter which I've seen plenty of times in other books.
And when I say Mouse Guard is unique, it truly is. I think of it as Game of Thrones mixed with Secret of Nimh. How the guard mice interact with other animals is fascinating with various dialects and cultural backgrounds which is not hard to guess if one were to look carefully. For example, the weasels' kingdom is inspired by the Viking culture in this story which I appreciated. Mice Templar, on the other hand, seemed to be of a different flavor that did'nt seem to click with me as it was high fantasy on that spectrum.
Seeing they are guard mice, they remind me greatly of the Knights Templar protecting pilgrims and fighting off saracens and infidels. Right now, Petersen's doing " Legends of the Guard Volume " Three as individual issues but I want to wait until it's collected in hardcover for a better reading experience. I also happen to have a copy of the Mouse Guard RPG based on Luke Crane's Burning Wheel System which is a beautiful tome ( a second edition is in the works, I hear ).
For amusement's sake, in the physical world, the Mouse Guard board game called " Swords and Strongholds " which made an appearance in the stories is becoming a reality through a Kickstarter.
And he did mention doing another storyline with Mouse Guard tentatively titled " The Weasel War of 1149 " which appears to be another prequel to Volumes One and Two but more epic. It just goes to show how much depth Mouse Guard has these days and I don't think there's any stopping it.
Any fan of Game of Thrones or anthropomorphic stories would love Mouse Guard.