Wanderers, one of the best things that can happen for a comic reader is when they come across a comic that just ticks all their boxes, and is a really great read on top of that. Lately, I’ve come across just such a comic. See, generally, I grew up reading superhero comics from the big two, with Asterix annuals thrown in because Asterix is freakin’ awesome. Anyway, while I did grow up with a relatively… okay, no, let’s be fair, I grew up in the 90s, the dork age of comics, and I can still see some of the effects lingering to this day. There was some good stuff though, that I enjoyed, and I’ve kept an interest for years. In recent years, I’ve found myself moving away from the big two somewhat, however, and the comic that I bring to you today is from the company Image Comics. Welcome to a redefinition of what it means to be a team of mercs; welcome, dear readers, to Rat Queens.
Written by Kurtis J Wiebe, Rat Queens is a self-aware, comedic take on the typical tropes of what one would expect from a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The blurb on the trade describes the comic as ‘Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack’ and I would have to say that’s … actually a really accurate assessment, my limited knowledge of the Tank Girl comics put to one side for the moment. (And yes, the comics, not the sub-par movie.) We follow four ladies – the titular Rat Queens – who are Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty. And within those four we have amazingly varied characters, great representation, and what I describe as strong ladies; that being ladies who have consistent characterisation.
The story of the first trade – Sass and Sorcery – goes as follows. The group gets into trouble, and is handed out a punishment. While completing said punishment they are almost killed. They find out this attack has also happened to other groups who do similar work to them. They are determined to find out who or what is the cause of these attacks. There, I think that’s a good summary without giving away spoilers. If I said this comic was made of the Tumblr generation, I don’t know if I would be being too general about it. The representation within the pages of the trade are fantastic – characters of all ethnicities, colours, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, and our main characters are fleshed out beyond their typical stereotype. Though, I think Violet quite likes living up to the violent stereotypes of Dwarves, she just tends to hate the other clichés that are lauded upon her race.
The story is a very enjoyable one to read, and Wiebe makes good balance of the natural comedy of the series with the surprisingly darkly serious moments that did make me stare at the pages for a few seconds in silence before letting out a little exclamation that my Editor tells me I am not allowed to recall for you here. But believe me, I was turning every page with glee, determined to find out more of the story and now that I’ve finished the first volume, I am eagerly awaiting the second.
Part of this glee is due in no small part to Roc Upchurch’s art-work. When I mentioned that all shapes and sizes were represented, I really meant it. These characters move and are drawn like real people, and the armour and battle clothing they all dress themselves in is appropriate for each’s respective skill; something that some seem unable to grasp. Each page is beautiful to look at, and I spent just as much time admiring the art, as I did laughing over the witty lines, or awing at a plot turn.
So yes, people, if you want to pick up a book that isn’t by the big two, I would suggest making Rat Queens at the top of your list. Actually, just put it right at the top of the list in general, you really won’t regret it. It is a funny book, a smart book, and above all… it’s a book that can be genuinely and deeply enjoyed. Rat Queens; you’ll fall in love with it.
Z McAspurren (No, seriously, when can I order volume 2?)