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Archaia Studios Press

Archaia 1

Written and Drawn by David Petersen

Lieam, Saxon, and Kenzie are the elite of the Guard, and while searching the forest for a missing merchant, they discover a conspiracy to overthrow the mouse government. As they try to figure out who the traitor within the Guard might be, they must also contend with the return of a legendary warrior thought dead, and a snake who doesn’t care about any mice machinations- all he wants is food. Full of rousing action and beautiful art, MOUSE GUARD was one of the biggest surprise hits of the past year.

I reviewed the individual issues of MOUSE GUARD as they came out, so I’m not going to belabor my feelings about the book: it’s excellent, and one I recommend to traditional and non-traditional readers alike. However, this collected hardcover edition has even more to it to like; the production quality is outstanding (and allows the original covers to breathe as two-page spreads, and there are some sweet extras at the back of the book, too. Those include maps of the mice kingdom, guides to a couple of their towns and to bits of mouse society, examples of the trades mice work at in their society, and pinups.

At $25, the hardcover is only a couple of bucks more than the original issues cost, making this edition even more of a bargain. Again, I recommend MOUSE GUARD without any hesitation, as it is one of the best and most consistently well-produced indies of the past year. Plunk down your cash and see why.


Marc Mason

Written by Jean-Pierre Pecau and Drawn by Igor Kordey
Translated by Edward Gauvin

Four siblings in the Neolithic period find themselves given a tremendous responsibility: ownership of the sacred runestones of their tribe. For years, they had been in the possession of their father, but an attack has brought about his impending death. Each child is given a stone and a caveat: they are very powerful, but must never be used together, because they could destroy the world. However, they immediate ignore that advice and promptly cause a meteor to fall from the sky and obliterate nearly all life. Now, thousands of years later, the siblings have gone their separate ways. Living in Egypt, one advises the Jews. Another, the Pharaoh. The other two maintain their own counsel. But fate will soon bring them back together, in opposition to one another, as the craving to hold all four stones is strong. The only question is just how much of human history their struggle will ultimately prove responsible for.

THE SECRET HISTORY is a beautifully illustrated work; it’s always a genuine pleasure to see Igor Kordey’s art produced in luscious color and on high-quality paper. But it would mean much less if he didn’t have an interesting story to work with. Fortunately, Pecau’s weaving of the siblings’ tale into the Old Testament works well. Parting the Red Sea with one of the runestones is a clever bit. It makes me very curious to see how the next six books in the series go, as the tale runs through 1914 a.d.

As I mentioned above, the production quality here is excellent. It’s printed in bookshelf format, with a spine, on heavy paper stock, making the colors pop off the page. That’s doubly important for a story set in the desert, the way this one is, because the changes in light coming from the sun and sand are very subtle. The latest in Archaia’s line of Euro imports, THE SECRET HISTORY is another solid winner for the publisher.

Marc Mason

Written and Drawn by Alex Sheikman

Sheikman’s surprise hit miniseries is now collected in a beautiful hardcover, and the collection goes a long way towards easing some of the qualms I had about the individual issues.

ROBOTIKA is described in its pr as “the world’s first science-fiction-steampunk-sushi-samurai western”, and while that’s over-stating it a bit, it’s at least in the ballpark. Niko is a royal bodyguard and the greatest swordsman in the land, but his life takes a harsh turn when he returns from a mission and discovers the painful truth behind why he was sent. Now a ronin, he meets up with other wanderers and begins leading a group of pilgrims across a wasteland to meet their god. Unfortunately, those sorts of missions never quite seem to go well, either.

The individual issues left me kind of flat as far as the story went. It was difficult to hold onto the through line as the mini played itself out. But taken as a whole and read in one sitting, ROBOTIKA is a much better book. The story is still not as strong as you’d like it to be; the pacing suffers as the two primary plot threads struggle for space. But the book is undeniably gorgeous to look at, and that provides a balance. Sheikman is a stunning talent on the page, and colorist Joel Chua turns the pen and ink into a true work of art. In the era of computer coloring, it is rare for a colorist’s work to truly stand out, but Chua shows himself to be just as gifted as Sheikman.

This hardcover collection also contains some nifty bonuses, including two short stories focusing on Niko’s companions and their origins, as well as sketchbook material. While flawed, ROBOTIKA is still an interesting and intelligent piece of entertainment and worth your time to pick up.

Marc Mason

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