Thursday, August 30, 2007



Artist/Story: Mike Avon Oeming

Writer/Story: Bryan J. L. Glass

Image Comics

Mouse Guard.

Disney’s The Three Musketeers.

Secret of Nimh.

The Mouse Knight.

Somewhere in the collective human subconscious there is a special space that automatically responds affectionately at the sight of a mouse in armour holding a tiny sword battling cats and enemy rats. It’s not something you can control. Cartoon mice enough are cute enough, but slap a feathered cap on them, and you’ve hit the payload! No wonder Petersen’s MOUSE GUARD became such an instant cult hit, leading to sold out first editions hitting some crazy numbers among collectors!

Mouse + Sword =Awwww= $_$

Following the heavily researched math above, Oeming and Glass are starting off their new series with a built-in audience foundation and a natural advantage. Take in the factors: Mice, swords, the Knights Templar, Image Comics. Multiple page coverage in Previews. Oversized premiere issue. Reduced introductory price.

In detail: MICE TEMPLAR #1 introduces us to the world of Karik, a young mouse who lives in a tree village with his mom and little sister. Instead of fairytales, the young mice in this world are enamored with the myth of the Mice Templar, the legendary mice knights of yesteryear, who have long disappeared mysteriously, after a war erupted within their ranks. Now they are the stuff of legend, and children’s favorite play-pretend game. When the village is threatened, Karik discovers that there is a lot more truth to their story than what the elders tell him, and that he has an important role to play in their future.

Glass gets most of the backstory/legend of the Templar out of the way with the first 6 pages of info-dump, which daze the reader and require a lot of attention up front before even seeing the characters for the first time. From then on, the story takes a more relaxed pace and introduces us to the characters inhabiting this mouse village. A number of mysteries and questions are set up for the reader, making him eager to navigate through the issue, while constantly revealing more facts about the way this world works and slowly injecting the more mystical elements in this sword&sorcery tale.

Unlike Petersen’s Mouse Guard, Oeming’s mice aren’t all cute and fluffy, but more akin to his human figures, with sharp stylized angles and features; they’re still thoroughly relatable and ‘likeable’ character designs, especially contrasted to the enemy rats invading near the end of the story. The action sequences are brutally realistic, contrasting with the cartoonistic style of the art. Gruesome deaths, pillaging, beheadings and dismemberments litter the page, portraying the reality of the war that erupts in the character’s once-peaceful life. The world these mice inhabit is bursting with life thanks to the imagination of Mike Oeming and with the amazing coloring it’s literally jumping out of the page. I wish more creators today would let their minds run free like this and create something amazing away from our genre’s spandex conventions.

Unfortunately, the art’s high degree of stylisation and reliance on shadows also leads to a problem in distinguishing the characters between them. The way the four main kid protagonists of the issue are introduced, en masse and as part of an even larger group, it’s hard to keep track of names, likenesses and features; I only managed to make sense of who is doing what by the second reading of the issue. With future issues focusing solely on the main character, this problem will likely subside.

Mice Templar has all the telltale signs of a great epic story. The first issue sets up the world nicely, introduces the main character, gives him a grandiose quest and creates a vast tragedy as backdrop and motivation to set him on his road to destiny. Magical elements, Gods and powerful artefacts are already creeping in the world, albeit with an offbeat flavor.

All in all, MICE TEMPLAR is a new classic-in-the-making with great potential for breakout crossover appeal. A great premise, eye candy art that appeals to the kid inside us, with all-out action and splatter to appease the adult as well and familiar fantasy trappings to tickle the geek bone. All it needs is great marketing and an attractive trade collection format to reach the bookstores audience.

Grade: 8/10


Intro to the characters in MICE TEMPLAR (only mild spoilers)


Our big hero! Young Karik has a bright destiny ahead of him. He’s fascinated with the legend of the Mice Templar, and loves to play the dashing action man. He has a strange tendency to get swallowed by magical fish.


Karik’s best friend. He’s older than the others in their group and has taken over the role of their protector and ‘master storyteller’, retelling the stories of the Mice Templar. He is an apprentice for the village’s blacksmith, Master Deishun.


Karik’s kid sister. She is also an action aficionado, dreaming of becoming a Maeven, a battle archer. She follows Karik in his games, and infatuated with Karik’s friend Leito.


Gabrielle’s best friend, she has a mad crush on Karik, but never gets to see any action as she’s stuck with the role of ‘maiden in distress’.

Master Deishun is the mysterious village blacksmith, bearing more than a few battle scars. He shares a secret with the elders of the village, and is the secret protector of the village. He has a soft spot for Karik’s mother, Mornae, who manages to break his gruff exterior.


Karik and Gabrielle’s mother. She is a widow, raising the young mice on her own, and working as a seamstress.

Pilot the Tall

A mysterious visitor to Deishun’s shop, bearing a gift of a talisman with a peculiar insignia. He is obviously unwelcome in the village and is quickly escorted out of the premises. He has an important role to play in future issues.


Invading pillagers, the most feared enemy of the mice villagers.

The singing trout



Bryan JL Glass said...

...We're not worthy! :)

Manolis Vamvounis said...

I'm very glad you liked the review Bryan! Thanks for all the linkage :)