By Nicole Keating
Hello, everyone! I’m the new fangirl on the block, bringing you comics reviews. My first post will be about my favorite new title: Image Comics and Shadowline’s Rat Queens, story by Kurtis J. Wiebe & art by Roc Upchurch.
At first glance, the story of Rat Queens is nothing new. A band of rowdy mercenaries—called The Rat Queens, of course — is under attack by a mysterious force, and they try to figure out who wants them dead. All the while, they fight off all enemies both magic and mundane that come their way.
Sounds like a D&D adventure, right? Well, welcome to the best D&D campaign you’ll ever play!
All the dialogue is fantastic, and there’s something a more than little bit teen movie about it. Hannah — a powerful sorceress in a miniskirt, “the maker of breakfasts,” and the leader of our adventurers—drops gems such as: “It’s over, dickcheese,” and “That’ll make him shit his pantaloons.” She also can talk to her parents from afar with the help of an enchanted stone that looks mysteriously like a cell phone.
Hannah’s parents aren’t the only source of heartache for our intrepid Rat Queens. They have ex-boyfriends, potential girlfriends, and brothers. Rather than being miscellaneous CW-esque distraction, the Queens’ outside relationships serve to bring them closer together as friends, as fighters, as allies. In this way, the story has no wasted moves. Every panel, no matter how hilarious or action-packed, moves the plot forward, making you consistently excited for what happens next.
One of my favorite parts of this comic is the art in the action sequences. They’re extremely exciting, and everything plays out with a stylized, cinematic quality. This gives Rat Queens a specificity of storytelling that isn’t present in just any comic. Every spell, every stab, every crushing troll hammer blow is rendered in stunning clarity. Plus, the fights just look cool.
The biggest accomplishment of the action, however, is its connection to character. Each person (or troll or orc or Smidgen) has a fighting style that is highly unique. For example, my favorite character/my spirit animal Betty flips, slides, climbs, stabs, and snarks her way to a kill. In a picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words moment, the way everyone attacks, defends, and kills tells you more about their characters than a whole issue of exposition would.
If you haven’t already guessed, all our protagonists are women. I could go on a rant here, but we all know that women are underrepresented as comic book protagonists. Rat Queens gives us four more women to add to the canon. Not only that, each one is a three-dimensional, fully-realized person, with strength and power, and also weaknesses and insecurities, too. They have senses of humor, and portray racial and sexual diversity like it is the new normal. They rarely talk about their interest in boys and/or girls— what’s up, Bechdel test — but when they do, it’s relatable and intriguing.
Hey, you might be thinking, that sounds a lot like life! It is. Rat Queens is one of the most realistic portrayals of friendship, women, and life in general I’ve seen in a comic. The fact that this world is so obviously magical makes the realism of relationship and honesty of character stand out even more.
Summary: Rat Queens is close to perfect and I highly recommend it. Hold off on Betty cosplay — I get first dibs.