This mousey take on Indiana Jones has been a favourite here on downthetubes from the beginning and as the story draws to its conclusion the two disparate teams searching for the fabled sceptre, one for academic purposes and the other for more nefarious purposes, have reached a mysteriously temperate valley in the Antarctic continent where both have been captured by a tribe of native warrior mice. Yet the issue does not begin with the captured main group but rather with the heroic Jack and the dangerous Moreau who had fought and then been swept away in a river in the previous issue.
As Jack and Moreau make it to the riverbank and an uneasy truce settles in, they soon discover that their camp is empty and they follow the trail of their companions to the village of the flying mice tribe located in a dead tree overhanging the valley itself. In the meantime the disparate imprisoned groups realise that they need to work together to free themselves from their hanging prison in the tree because, once the tribe realise what it is they are after, imprisonment is going to be replaced by death.
Having imperilled his cast with a sudden attack from an enormous and supposedly extinct beast at the end of the last episode, Matt Gibbs this time gives his readers time to dwell on the more psychological horror of the tribe’s method of sacrifice. Yet this is touted as an all-ages book and so there is a subtlety to what is happening and the death of one of the characters, when it comes, happens as the reader is being shown the backs of the crowd of onlookers.
Indeed as the tribe all speak in a foreign tongue, which is not translated in the speech balloons (although there is a primer on the language at the back of the issue), it is left to the reader to decide just what is going on and for what reason. This native tribe gives Sara Dunkerton the dual challenge of yet another rodent species, as well as a very different culture, to illustrate. Perhaps the best part of this is the fact that all the mice warriors wear bird skulls as helmets which provides both a striking character design as well as anonymising them.
Towards the end of the issue, as our groups take flight (in both senses of the word) from their captivity, Sara opens her panels out as we see the flying mice take to the sky not under their own power but on the backs of dragonflies and moths (remembering that in the world of MULP mice are really mouse sized and not the human analogues of the Grandville or Rupert Bear stories). If there is one thing missing from this section it would be a close up panel of one of those flying warrior mice riding on the back of an insect, but that is minor quibble about Sara’s otherwise lovely artwork.
MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun issue 4 imperils our heroes as never before whilst setting them up for the final part of the story when hopefully they, and we, will finally discover exactly what the Sceptre of the Sun is as Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton bring this delightful tale to its conclusion.
• There are more details of MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun, and how to buy a copy, at the MULP website: http://mulpcomic.com/
• Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton talked to downthetubes about MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun here.
• There are more details of Matt Gibbs’ work on his website.
• There are more details of Sara Dunkerton’s work on her blog.
• All issues of MULP will be available at Thought Bubble in Leeds over the weekend of 23/24 September 2017 and at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal over the weekend of 14/15 October 2017.