Monday, March 17, 2008

The Mice Templar #1

The comic book industry is no stranger to delays, and this trend appears to be more common now than ever before. Many factors play a role in why creators are unable to get books on the shelves when originally solicited. But no matter what the circumstances, most will tell you it all comes down to their schedule. The busier they get, and the more projects they take on, the more likely their books will come out late. No one understands this more than Michael Avon Oeming.

Oeming is fast becoming one of the most prolific writers and artists in comics. He has penned such titles as Thor, Ares, Cross Bronx, the new Omega Flight, and he is currently writing the very popular Red Sonja. In addition to his writing credits, Oeming has found time to pencil a few titles, most notably the creator-owned Powers, written by Brian Michael Bendis. With a workload like this, it’s a wonder any of his books come out on time. There is one project, however, that Oeming never thought would make its way into the stores, The Mice Templar.

The story revolves around a society of anthropomorphic mice, while the first issue focuses primarily on one young mouse, Karik. Karik lives in a small tree village with his family. He is obsessed with the legendary tales of the Mice Templar, warrior nights of the past who disappeared from the world shortly after a civil war raged among the heroic mice. Their story has been passed down through the ages, and the young mice of the village often pretend to be the very heroes whose stories they have been told by the local elders. Without giving too much away, the village is suddenly attacked by a band of rats looking for remaining members of the Mice Templar. This sudden invasion turns the village upside down and provides Karik with the opportunity to become the hero he always dreamed of. But at what cost?

The idea for this story dates back to the early 1990s through a series of Oeming’s sketches. These were followed by a short story he drafted in 1998. Over the years, the mythology of the Mice Templar, and the world they inhabit, was further expanded upon by Oeming’s long-time friend, Bryan J.L. Glass. What started as a six-issue outline quickly grew to an epic tale of a fallen culture and its eventual rebirth. With so much time and energy spent on creating the Templar history, coupled with Oeming’s workload, The Mice Templar sat idle for well over 15 years. It’s almost cliche to say it was worth the wait, but after reading the first issue, there are no words more fitting.

With this book, Oeming and Glass illustrate a very important point about writers and artists in the field of comics. When working on their own projects, these creators shine brighter, and publish work more inspired, than anything they have done with the iconic heroes of the “big two.” You see this with Kirkman and The Walking Dead, and more importantly, Brubaker with Criminal. The first issue leaves the reader with a few unanswered questions, but that only leaves you wanting more. The history of the Templar is explained in the book’s first few pages, and the rest of the 56-page issue plunges you into the brutal world of a society fighting for its own survival. The art is incredible, and Oeming does not shy away from illustrating the harsh realities of war. Where Mouse Guard seemed to avoid depicting violence as it exists in the real world, Templar approaches this head on. The only problem with the art is the difficulty in telling one mouse from the other. Hopefully this will become less of an issue in future books.

In the end, Oeming and Glass can sit back and feel a sense of accomplishment as a book they worked so tirelessly on has finally made its way into the hands of readers and did not disappoint. I can’t wait to see this story develop over the upcoming issues. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story with strong character development and plenty of surprises. Pick this up if you can find it!! This book is going to fly off the shelves.

The Mice Templar #1
Written by: Bryan J.L. Glass & Michael Avon Oeming
Pencilled by: Michael Avon Oeming
Colored by: Wil Quintana

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