Comics Rec Wednesday! Rat Queens, Vol. 1

Hey guys! As some of you may know or have picked up on already, I’ve become kind of a comics nerd over the past few years. They’ve actually come to make up the large majority of what I read on a weekly basis (so much easier to breeze through!), and while I’ve come across a lot of shit, for sure, there has also been some fucking amazing characters, creators, and stories that’ve absolutely blown me away.

I’ve done a couple of comic book reviews before, but I want to start sharing them with you guys on a more regular basis, so I’ve decided to dedicate one day a week to recommending an awesome trade collection that –

  1. I think you guys, as fans of things that are paranormal and supernatural and awesome, would enjoy
  2. Are new-comic-reader friendly, and not completely mired in decades of incomprehensible continuity!
Welcome to…

*~Comic Rec Wednesday~*

*noisemaker* *confetti*

So hey, let’s talk about the motherfuckin’ Rat Queens.

Rat Queens cover Who are the Rat Queens?

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.

It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!
Ignore that Buffy thing, they’re nothing like Buffy, and even less like the Buffy comic, which is terrible, FYI, don’t waste your money. BUT RAT QUEENS! Rat Queens is fucking awesome!

Why You Should Read: Rat Queens is loads of fun. As the summary says, it’s a sword-and-sorcery comic centered around a group of four female adventurers who do generic adventuring things with attitude. If you’re even casually familiar with the adventuring system in World of Warcraft, D&D, Skyrim, or basically any fantastical RPG ever, you’ll understand that sort of shit these ladies have to deal with.
The Rat Queens get an assignment Ugh, generic fantasy roleplaying crap? you hypothetically say to prompt my next selling point. Why would I want to read that? Well, for one, because it’s fucking hilarious.

Rat Queens‘ primary hook is humor. It’s not a beat-for-beat parody in the Nightlight/SNL sketch sense, because it does have its own original plot and characters, and it takes those aspects fairly seriously, but it treats the fantasy setting and tropes with very little reverence. It’s more along the lines of Shaun of the Dead: a classic premise dealt with in a subversive and unexpected way.

Second on the list but equally as important a hook? The ladies. Yeah, that’s right. Ladies, plural. Four of them:
The GODSDAMNED RAT QUEENS The blurb doesn’t do them justice, because they are nowhere near as one-note as the labels imply. Sure, there are the obvious fantasy jokes – the dwarf only drinks wine! HA! – but the Rat Queens are more than that, and they come alive primarily in the relationship(s) that they share with one another. There’s no competitive catty bullshit, none of that frenemies crap. The Rat Queens are like sisters – they laugh and play and get angry and fight with one another, but when shit gets real or someone’s in trouble? All for one, motherfucker.

This first volume, Sass and Sorcery, is very much an intro arc – it sets up the world and characters and the storyline to come – so there’s not a whole lot of deep character stuff yet, but there’s enough complicated history and back story hinted at that you can tell there’s plenty of development to come.

Then there’s the art. Goddamn that art.
Rat Queens illustration I goddamn love the Queens’ character designs. Look at that shit. For those of you new to comics, that, up there? That is kind of a big deal. In a medium where most female characters are drawn with Barbie-esque proportions, I love that Rat Queens gives each of its protagonists – and indeed, most of its characters in general – a different body type. Furthermore, it doesn’t elevate any one over the others as more inherently desirable. Women come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and colors in the Rat Queen universe, and they’re all sexy and badass and awesome in their own way.
Orc lady is the godsdamned alphabet Equally important selling point number three? Fucking diversity, man. No white-bread fantasy setting here, there are characters of color all over the place and nobody feels the need to explain it away or make a big deal of it. They’re just there. Same for queer characters, like little Smidgeon Betty. She just likes other girls. No big goddamn deal.

100% guaranteed way to get me to give a shit about stale-ass fantasy settings? Fill it with bad-ass poc and women and LGBT+ characters and then treat them with respect. Works every time.

But anyway, we were talking about the art. I love it. The character designs are great, the colors are lovely and rich, and I’m not one to give two shits about fight scenes, usually, but series artist Roc Upchurch’s action scenes are some of my favorites. They’re so fluid and kinetic and creative that not only am I engaged in the stunts the characters are trying to pull of, but I feel like I’m watching them do it in an animated scene rather than a series of still images.

Also, goddamn those expressions. This is one of my favorite panels –
Dee and Betty have a tender moment Look at the fucking tenderness in Dee’s eyes. That’s fucking ART, man.

I could go on and on about the things that I love about this comic, and post panel after panel so that we can all laugh and cheer and fawn over Dee’s hair, but I won’t, because I really want you guys to read this. It’s almost perfect. Almost. I have like two issues with the first volume as a whole:

1) Misogynistic slurs do pop up once or twice between women. I winced a bit every time I came across them, because they aren’t really necessary, and I feel like are there more for the foul-mouthed shock value than anything else. I don’t like that they’re there, but ultimately it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the rest of the book.

2) Dee’s design. I’m not sure how much I can or should say on this, but it definitely initially struck me as having a stereotypical African witch-doctor vibe. It was tempered some by her actually being more of a Cthulu-esque cultist, but I can understand it potentially being problematic.

That aside, Rat Queens, man. It’s a big ball of rambunctious fun with a good balance of action and quieter character-interaction moments. And the best part? It’s less than eight goddamn dollars on Amazon for volume one, and it is welllllll worth it. The trade collects the first five issues, and if you’re interested after that, issues six and seven are currently up on Comixology as of this posting.

Level of Familiarity with Company Continuity Required to Enjoy: None! Rat Queens is a completely stand-alone series from an independent publisher, so you need to know absolutely fuck-all about any other title to enjoy it!

Purchase: Amazon // Comixology (digital copy) // Free Comixology Preview

four stars

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to comment if you guys have any questions. I’ll be back with another awesome trade next Wednesday, and another actual book review soon after – or possibly before – that!

 

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