Rat Queens #1 Review
Rat Queens is what Lord of the Rings would have been like if everyone on Middle Earth was hung over, tripping on shrooms, and constantly starting bar room brawls. It’s no wonder this book sold out of its first run and is already on its second printing in less than a month.
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch, Rat Queens focuses on the titular band of ass-kickers-for-hire who used to be known for protecting their village, but since they’ve slain just about all of the monsters, these days they usually get drunk at the tavern, start fights, and pretty much wreak havoc throughout the town on a daily basis.
The group consists of Dee, the Atheist Human Cleric; Betty, the Hippy Smidgen Thief; Violet, the HIpster Dwarven Fighter; and Hannah, the Rockabilly Elven Mage.
When issue #1 starts, the town has pretty much had it with the Rat Queens and have gathered to discuss how to get rid of them. They are given one last chance, but as punishment, they are sent on a quest to rid a cave of goblins that they thought they already took care of, but apparently goblins breed like rabbits and they’re back.
We’re also introduced to some similar parties of warriors who are also sent on various missions as punishment. There’s the Peaches who are tasked with sacking a bandit camp, the Four Daves are asked to deal with some undead ghouls at a nearby cemetery, Brother Ponties must slay a one-armed ogre, and the brooding goth group of Dark Elves known as the Obsidian Darkness are slapped with the menial task of cleaning the shitters.
Amidst the humor and silliness, the plot picks up when it’s revealed that assassin’s are being sent to kill these bands of heroes-for-hire.
- The setting. Sure, it may seem like your run-of-the-mill LotR/WoW setting, but there are little nuances that set this apart from your average mideval fantasy. Characters speak to one another in modern-day language, so expect plenty of “dude” talk and lots of swearing. There’s also a somewhat clever use of magic being used as a device that mimics a cell phone, but that concept tiptoes around making the team of bad-ass she-warriors seem like at-the-mall/Sex in the City girly-girl clichés.
- The characters. It’s always a treat to see strong female roles in comics without having them dressed in lingerie (no matter how big a fan I am of such things). Each one of these girls are firecrackers and readers of all types will be able to find a favorite.
- The art. Roc Upchurch absolutely KILLS it on the pencils. He also does the inks and colors which makes his skills that much more impressive. There’s plenty of violence and gore in this issue, but it’s mostly used in an over-the-top comedic way that totally works. Upchurch’s calling card, though, is his amazing facial expressions. Some of the biggest laughs to be had in this book are simply from the faces that some of the characters make.
- The humor. This is a series that will either live or die by the graces of its humor which, thankfully, is pretty spot-on for the most part. The lead characters are a mix of Whedon-esque wittiness with the vulgarity of Bridesmaids, but with extreme violent tendencies.
- Forced narrative. Sometimes it feels like characters are talking to the reader instead of each other. I understand trying to cram a rich world and characters into a first issue, but there’s way to convey information to readers while making conversation flow naturally.
- Some jokes fall flat. Sometimes it seems like Wiebe is trying a little too hard to shock the readers with profane potty humor that it borders on Dane Cook levels of trying-too-hard unfunniness. Thankfully, these moments are far and few in between and the rest of the book’s sheer awesomeness more than makes up for it.
Rat Queens is one of the most fun books I’ve read in a long damn time and it’s easy to see why the first printing of this issue sold out (second printing drops Oct. 23). This is a near flawless execution of a first issue, providing just the right amount of back story and intrigue to make readers want to dive right into issue #2. If fantasy, action, and humor are your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out Rat Queens.