Have you seen Leon: The Professional? That was how the book was pitched to me when I asked about it. Good movie, by the way. Like Leon (and Okko below) this was originally made in France. There are 6 volumes in French. The fourth English volume is due out fall 2012.
The story is pretty standard for a story about a hitman – flashbacks to how he got into the business, a job goes wonky, he decides to retire, gets betrayed, gets even, decides to find out more about what is going on.
What makes it different is that it is all told from the main character’s perspective – there are no cut aways. Much of the progression is also through internal monologue. The focus isn’t really what he is doing but what is going through his head at the time. The real point is getting inside the hitman’s head as he struggles with paranoia, isolation, his past, and his future.
This is the strength of the book. Seeing what is in his head as he struggles to not fall apart.
The art supports what is going on in the character’s head. There are few details not relevant to what is going on. When the character is cracking up, the image is cracked as well. When the character is relying on his killer instinct, his ‘spirit animal’ is shown. The art and internal monologue play together well.
Overall I like the psychological bent to the story and how the artwork reflects it. But the story itself doesn’t grab me. I finished the book easily but I’m not rushing to get the next one – I was amused but not enthralled. I am curious about how the character will deal with things but I don’t really care what happens to him. So this is one to wait for another sale.
I happened to catch the author, David Petersen, during a lull in autographs so I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions. I opened with what I’m sure is what he hears the most, “Was Redwall an inspiration for Mouse Guard?” I haven’t read Redwall but it is part of the reason I hadn’t read Mouse Guard. Because I associated Mouse Guard and Redwall and I think of Redwall as a YA book, I put Mouse Guard in the same category. David replied that Redwall was actually a counter-inspiration. He thinks of Mouse Guard as the anti-Redwall. He appreciates the fans who come from Redwall nostalgia but he is telling a different story. He also expressed amusement about how many other mouse related comics and toys have come out since Mouse Guard became popular.
This first story follows 3 members of the titular Mouse Guard. They are like the Rangers of the mouse world (too much B5 on the brain). The Guard are wandering fighters who keep the land clear of enemies and safe for the common .. mouse.
My favorite part of this book is the world-building. You understand the dangers the mice have to deal with, how they try to cope with things, and how the mouse civilization works.
The artwork is good without too much complication. Some of the darker scenes were a little difficult for me to figure out what was going on. That could just be my eyesight. The wide-angle scenes give you a great idea of the scope of the mouse world.
The characters have individuality and personality. There are no scenes were the characters feel like they are forcefully scripted.
And I like that each book is a particular season. This goes back to the world-building and the scope of the mouse world.
Overall this is a good book. I think I’d still classify it as YA though. The plot is straightforward. The heroes are heroes. The bad guys are bad guys. There is very little moral ambiguity and no “discussion points” for the kids outside of the main plot.
I might pick up some of the other books if I find another Archaia sale, but I’m not feeling a need for them.