So the proverbial Rat Queens are….actually not that proverbial at all. As much as they sound a little cliché, in fact they are all wonderfully individual and refreshing, and all women. I would like to castigate myself for my final description as it sounds like an added caveat to the former praiseworthy adjectives, but we don’t live in an equal and just comic world. It is quite important to mention that the Queens are ladies, because there are not enough well written females in the mainstream or independent market. In fact this is one of the few books I have come across with a delightful blend of feisty dames.
Palisade is a fantastical town, I image from some Dungeons and Dragons adventure book, that engages in typical boozy bar brawls, mercenary missions and magical quests. Therein live and work the Rat Queens, Hannah, Violet, Dee and Betty, who are Elven, Dwarf, Human and Smidge in origin. You can imagine this lends to a delectable mixture of figures, costumes, hairstyles and most of all weapons. Roc Upchurch is certainly enjoying these central characters and has a seemingly free reign to draw mythical creatures as he pleases. It is one of the resounding features of this book that each character is completely distinctive to every other. It is as far removed from the classic cheesecake ethos employed by far too many an artist, which is extremely commendable.
Not only are our protagonists recognisable by their physical characteristics but also their facial expressions, which is plays into their personalities. Hannah is the mysterious mage who always appears intent and curious, Violet is an aggressive Dwarf always ready to fight, Violet is calm and collect, taking things in her stride and Betty is the playful little hobbit surprisingly fierce in battle. Their characters may be set out by their race but Kurtis Weibe is careful to not conform to stereotypes, as he is slowly unveiling character backgrounds as each issue progresses. There is a lot to discover, but it is enjoyable enough to witness the raucous, crass and lewd behaviour of the Queens as they fight orcs whilst trying to uncover who is trying to assassinate them.
Kurtis uses very modern day colloquial language in his dialogue and is not averse to the most offensive of swear words. This is in keeping with the acerbic and vicious violence of the book, such as watching little Betty pluck the eyeballs out of a monster with her daggers. This issue sees numerous pages dedicated to bloody conflict and epic heroism come martyrdom from our central protagonists. Upchurch uses sound effects, swoosh lines and the splattering of blood to bear out the injurious strikes of the Queens. He is not afraid to injury our far from delicate cast of women and it is almost upsetting how he throws around the adorable and cute Betty. We are quite easily pacified by her enthusiasm and rapid-fire quips that instantly charm.
Weibe has effectively set up an humorous but dark toned narrative within a magical little village and it’s eccentric and quirky inhabitants. The pitch is very much akin to Saga, as it plays to an adult audience with an unmitigated and compassionate vernacular. There is a limited amount grace with our Queens, but in the world of dungeons and dragons this is not necessarily a feasible quality. This title is a fun and enjoyable to read and it does not hold back which is probably a significant part of its appeal. At the moment it is quite light hearted what with all the murder, lying, drinking, and broken relationships but I can tell it is about to get serious. There is much more fun to be had as we learn more and more about our four beautiful mercenaries.
“Let’s get stabby”.