I'm new to this series, and I thought a #1 would be a great place to pick it up--and I was right. This first issue gives the feeling of being introductory to the series, establishing the world and what to expect, which works well for me as a new reader. The book is about mice who wear cloaks and fight with swords and speak like they're in fantasy novels, defending villages from snakes, hawks, and other natural predators. That's all I knew going in, and that's really all you need to know to have a good time.
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard has a neat premise: whoever tells the best tale gets his bar tab erased, but every other storyteller must pay off his tab within a week. Apparently, these mice like to drink ale more than Peter O'Toole, as having to pay off one's tab would hurt the mouse pocketbook. There are three stories in the first issue, and they vary in quality.
The first, "The Battle of The Hawk's Mouse and The Fox's Mouse," was my personal favorite, because it had the most eloquent writing and prettiest art. There was one standout page in which the text was written on a banner that swept around the characters as they battled, and moved the battle clockwise around the page, from upper right to center, with the battle's climax in the center. The sense of movement really gave the battle a momentum you don't really see in mainstream comics--usually you'd see a lead up page, and then a splash on the following page. This story gave a nice change of pace from what I normally read.
The second story, "A Bargain in the Dark," was very fast, and was about a mouse who carries an injured bat to safety. Ted Naifeh, the writer and artist of this story, does a fine enough job, but I feel like he didn't have enough space to tell his story. When the bat tells the mouse about his first flight when he was a pup, it's crammed into three panels, and goes by too quickly. Ditto for the mouse, Tristram, who hints at a story of lost love, but gets no space to tell his tale. Maybe that's the point, that the mouse telling the story is only able to tell his one tale, but I really would have appreciated more depth.
The final story, "Oleg the Wise," felt like it was over before it started. A mouse sees a soothsayer who tells him his steed will be the death of him, so he gets rid of the ferret he was riding. He does not have the ferret put to death, but rather taken far away. Years later, when he gets word the ferret has died, he asks to be taken to its grave, where a snake lies in wait. This story felt like one I'd heard a few times before, though I still enjoyed it, to some degree.
I'm glad I picked up the first of this new series, and I'm looking forward to picking up the collections of the previous series. Apparently, I'm two series behind, which shouldn't be hard to catch up on. The series publishes bi-monthly, and I don't think I'll be able to wait two months for more mouse action.