Dear brothers and sisters, enemies and friends. I have a confession to make: I have only played Dungeons and Dragons once. It was with my brother and some of his friends about 5 years ago. I know I know, I am not a real nerd. The nuances were a bit lost on a noob like me, but I still had a great time. But for whatever reason, be it opportunity, or crippling anxiety of social interaction, I haven't played since. But I found a comic that makes that all right. Rat Queens. Published by Image Comics, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, and art by Roc Upchurch, this fun and cool book reads like a couple of hipsters sat down and played D&D. And you know what? Thats great, because it fills that Gygaxian sized hole in my heart.
Rat Queens volume 1 aptly named Sass and Sorcery introduces readers to a band of chichi lady adventurers as they quest for gold, kill Orcs, have sex, and smoke pure arcane vapours. D&D conventions are turned on their pointy elf ear as we are introduced to Hannah a rockabilly elf mage and defacto leader of the group, Violet a self proclaimed “hipster” dwarf warrior who has shaved her beard and left her people to see the world, Dee a somewhat shy human cleric who grew up in a cult that worships a thinly veiled Cthulu allegory, and Betty a possibly insane flower child smidgen (nee halfling) thief that likes drugs... a lot. The band is seen as something of a joke and an embarrassment among the other adventurers and politicians in the city of Palisade.
I'm pretty sure “Obsidian Darkness” what my
brother called himself during his goth phase.
The Rat Queens find themselves thrown in the city dungeon after a bar brawl gets out of hand and literally crash a city council meeting (namely through the wall). The girls are given an option of completing a quest or being thrown out of the city (and punched in the face on the way out I might add) by Hannah's ex-boyfriend (or more accurately f#*% buddy) leader of the city watch Sawyer. Other parties of adventurers including the Peaches, the Four Daves, the Brother Ponies, and Obsidian Darkness are given a similar deals, also with said threat of face punch. What seem like fairly straight forward jobs go to so much Orc crap as the Rat Queens are attacked by an assassin. Things go from bad to worse for the girls when are “saved” by a Troll who dispatches the would be killer with a very large hammer. How said very large and very angry troll is able to get the drop on a human, an elf, a dwarf, and a smidgen is cause for some swear-y debate.
Kurtis J. Wiebe's writing is fantastic. Taking sword and sorcery tropes and giving them a modern voice, Wiebe make's the book accesible to men, women, fantasy and non-fantasy readers. Anyone who speaks like they come from a Simonson era issue of Thor would more than likely get ridiculed for doing so. Characterization seems to be one of Wiebe's strongsuits, from the lead foursome to fucking Gary everybody comes across fully realized. Strong female characters in comics are still too few and far between, but Wiebe is one of those writers like Brian K. Vaughan, Kelly Sue Deconnick, or Greg Rucka who are able to put believably written women in their books. Hannah, Dee, Violet, and Betty are all well thought out individauls with unique voices and unique traits. Never do they come across as one-dimensional or pandering to a male reader, which may be why the book is as popular amongst women readers as it is. It feels like real women in completely insane adventures.
Roc Upchurch's art is solid and impressive for a relative newcomer to the comics scene. It evokes a similar feel to Fiona Staples of Saga's art, but never feels derivative. Each character has their own shape and look which many comic artists seem to have problem with. Where their women are indistinguishable from each other. Same build, same hair, same face. Roc makes each Rat Queen feel like their own person. The only major qualm I have with his work is sometimes his camera placement can confuse some of the action. But it's never so bad that you can't distinguish what is happening.
With only seven issues having been released there has been a swell of women cosplayers dressing up like the Rat Queens. It's a testament to a new comic to have such a groundswell of fans, and people looking to emulate the characters. I think the part of the appeal is that the women in the book are realistic and aren't cleavage showing cheesecake size 0's that populated comics for so long. Cosplayers can dress like Dee or Hannah and not feel like they're showin' off the goods so to speak. They're not New 52 Harley Quinn's who went from covered from head to toe to barely clothed at all.
The Rat Queens are kickass fighters who will out swear any bandit, and out drink any dwarf... well except for Violet who only drinks wine. Rat Queens volume 1: Sass and Sorcery is a great read. I find
myself eagerly anticipating each issue. Reading the singles digitally and then double dipping with the physical trade. Filled with strong and funny characters, this book will appeal to more than just the RPG crowd, but has enough in jokes for the staunchest of D&D player to appreciate. With a cartoon in the works you're going to see a lot more of these ladies in the future, and I for one
- Strong female leads
- A larger story that feels though it could be epic
- A great creative team that works well together
- Funny as hell
- Some hiccups with art
- Fucking Gary...