Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rat Queens

Hey, kids! It's me again, and I've got a brand new comic book recommendation for all y'all out there...

This is the Rat Queens.

The Rat Queens is a fairly new comic book, just six issues out at the moment. It's written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch, and the book is published by Image comics. For those of you not in the know, Image comics has kinda become "the place with the good shit" lately. A once ballsy young upstart comic company bursting at the seams with talent, only to slide down into a cesspool of cheap Big Two knock-off titles and uninspired grim and gritty garbage during the comic duldrums of the 90s, it has more recently experienced a bit of a renaissance. Now, its racks are lined with some of the most interesting titles currently available. 

I've mentioned a few of them before, here and there, on occasion, titles like...

Among others...

I know, I know, it's a real wall-o-comic covers, ain't it? Whatever. Peruse them at your leisure if you want, see if anything appeals to you. There will probably be something, I'm sure. They're all really good reads and totally worth your time...

Now, back to the Rat Queens.

So, what is it? What is it about? Questions, questions, questions. Let's get started... Imagine a rowdy D&D game played by a bunch of super foul-mouthed punk rock girls. It's mean and funny and a violent good time, full of hack and slash fights, familiar sword and sorcery fantasy tropes, and a big ol' heap of fuck you, all done up with some fantastic looking art. It's stylish and quirky and cool, but also--its biggest strength really--is that it's very character-driven. All-in-all, it's a top-notch comic. It's one I really recommend.

But then, maybe that all sounded a little too... eh... Press Release-y?

Yeah, maybe, but it's also true. It is really funny. It's also really gory at times. And honestly, if you've ever played D&D, you will recognize a lot of the things that going on inside the book--the creators have definitely rolled some dice--you'll recognize the character classes, the monsters, the look, even things like the basic set-up. The Rat Queens are a mercenary group made up of a classically disparate group of adventures. They live in a sprawling, high-walled city by the sea called Palisade, and they earn their living by going on your basic D&D-like quests... hunting bandits, fighting trolls, slaying monsters, yadda, yadda, yadda... you know how it goes.

And then in their off-hours...

Y'see, the Rat Queens, and all of the other various mercenary adventurer rabble that make Palisade their home, are a bit of a nuisance. They're loud. Sometimes they're jerks. They get drunk a lot. They break a lot of shit. They probably smell. Basically, they're getting on the collective nerves of the good people of Palisade. As a result, a conspiracy of citizens hire the deadliest Guild of Assassins in the known world to take out the Rat Queens, and all the other mercenaries, the next time they're off on an adventure TCB-ing.

It doesn't turn out quite as planned.

The Rat Queens return to Palisade to kick some ass and get some answers. And what follows is basically the first story line. It's a good comic. It's serious about itself, but not in an "embarrassing lack of self-awareness" kind of way, not by a long shot. It treats its world and characters with respect, but it's not afraid to have fun. And for all the crazy D&D silliness they get up to, it all feels real. The characters are not just clear, consistent, and distinct, they're a blast to read. You believe they're all actual friends with an actual history. Their quirks and foibles don't seem manufactured or forced into usage as the story demands. 

Sure, sure... sometimes it gets a little too... hmm... a little too what I think of as "Hunter S. Thompson-y". You know what I'm talking about, right? The cavalier, free-wheeling, good-time writing style sometimes pushes a little too far in the hunt for wild excess. It often finds itself walking that thin line between funny outrageous and trying-too-hard. The mimicry is understandable, there is no one like the good Doctor, after all, but it can be hard to pull it off all the time and occasionally the book does falter. Not often, mind you, but occasionally. I didn't mind too much, obviously, I clearly liked the book. And I mean, shit... even Warren Ellis stumbles with this every know and then, right? Right. 

And like I said, it all looks great.

So, who are the Rat Queens?


Hannah is the Elvish Sorcerer of the group. She is powerful. She's also a bit of a hot-head. Quick to fight, quicker to snark, she's definitely the catalyst of a lot of the trouble the Rat Queens get in. The daughter of a pair of Elvish Necromancers who love her, but nag because they maybe don't quite understand her choices, you get the feeling that she's kind of the rich girl of the group, slumming it with the lower classes while desperately trying to avoid a life back home that has been all laid out for her. She hangs out with Sawyer Silver, the Captain of Palisade's Guard. She likes him, but she won't admit it. The bad news is, Sawyer is a man with dark secrets, the kind with tentacles, the kind that is about to bite them all in the ass. 


Violet is a Dwarven Fighter. She shaved off her beard before it was cool, and left her family behind to forge her own path. She and Hannah bicker quite a bit. She's prickly about how people perceive Dwarfs: "Dwarven Ale... as if Dwarves drink just one kind of beer," but harbors a lot of the same feelings herself. In fact, it's why she left home, too many traditions and demands and expectations. She carries a lot of hurt feelings over it. So does her family. They want her back home, but on their terms, and Violet isn't going to compromise. You get the feeling there's other stuff going on there that is currently on the narrative slow boil. We shall see. In the meantime, while she's a bad ass fighter and a hard-charger, she's terrible at catchphrases.


Dee is the Human Cleric. She's their healer. Like Violet, she has left behind her family, her home, and the squid-god worshiping cult that raised her. Mostly because she's had a crisis of faith, she's not sure what she believes. She might be an atheist. She also figures she's Goddess enough for worship. So there's that, and maybe partly because of her much older husband too... but that still remains to be seen. He just showed up on their doorstep. Mostly though, her family seems to be letting her be on her own and find out who she is. Dee's the nice one of the group. The shy one. The good kid. But she's also a little sad, a little lonely, and even among her friends, she feels alone.


Betty is the group's Thief. She's a Smidgen, which is kind of like a hobbit, but more excessive. She's the hippy of the group, a lover of candy and drugs and booze. She's a smart ass and a sweet soul, but maybe too sensitive. Her girlfriend sees her constant partying and brawling as a sign that the two of them are in different places in their lives and ends up breaking up with her... poor Betty... But Betty is also real game, even with a broken heart, she's always down for an adventure. She's a talented burglar, an incredibly observant detective, and hell-on-wheels with her knives. 

And that's your team. 

The Rat Queens is about four adventurers looking glory and gold and good times. Don't pretend like you haven't been there before, Table-top. I'm rambling, I know, but this is a really good book, I want you to read it. Great art. Well written. You should definitely check it out. The first five issues were all collected recently into a nice Trade Paperback and the sixth issue just came out a week or so ago, so now is a good time to jump on, if you're interested. 

Do it. Come on.


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