This is a shameless plug for a shameless book. Rat Queens created by Kurtis J. Weibe and John “Roc” Upchurch is my favorite indie book out there. This little gem is published by Image Comics and is but one of their many fine titles. I’ve heard it described as Dungeons and Dragons crossed with Sex and the City. I don’t entirely agree, since I don’t care for Sex and the City, but I can see how such a comparison could be made. The book is certainly not for children due to the creative profanity alone. Still for mature readers the book is top notch.
I recommend this book on a daily basis to most people who enjoy any of my hobbies. This comic is for gamers of all kinds and for anyone who enjoys a good story and a good laugh. Rat Queens has witty comedy and just enough sex and violence to keep everyone happy. The title stood out whilst perusing my Previews World order form and I decided to take a chance on yet another indie book. I couldn’t have made a better choice.
The book revolves around the exploits of an all female adventuring group. Like any band of adventurers, they make their living killing things and getting paid for the pleasure. They’re veterans of the lifestyle and clearly love their work. However, they are also people and have drama just like everybody else. In reality some people turn to substance abuse or casual sex to avoid the reality of it all. Coping mechanisms are great, but the Rat Queens ask…why choose just one? These characters sometimes pick option three: some not quite random violence in addition to the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
I love the book because, despite being a fantasy setting, it all feels very real. The characters are organic and actually develop. Character development is less common in comics these days and I find it refreshing. Some introductions are in order; meet the Rat Queens:
We have Betty the group’s thief, cook, and bartender…all necessary roles. Betty is a smidgen, which is basically a half-ling or a hobbit. She’s cute as a button and doted on by the rest of her companions. Betty seems to have a thing for girls, food, and hallucinogenic mushrooms. I am rather fond of Betty.
Next up is Dee. Dee serves as the group’s cleric. She defected from a cult to some horrible dark deity but, seems to be working for the side of good or at least she works with the Rat Queens. How that came to be is a story that is still pending and I look forward to it. She’s a human and she suffers from some severe antisocial behavior; likely stemming from her dark past. She may be having a crisis of faith, but she keeps mostly mum about it and her healing is top notch. Dee is a strong, independent woman of color, which is semi-rare in comics.
Hannah fulfills the role of wizard. Hannah is an elf. She’s a tall, willowy, brunette with mean streak a mile wide. She seems at odds with her parents, who seem to be more traditional elves and she simply isn’t. Hannah is smart and gets by on her wits and magical ability. Her spells seem to range closer to dark magic and usually have nasty results. Hannah and the captain of the guard seem to be ex’s.
Saving the best for last; Violet leads the group, though as you can imagine not everyone listens all the time. She fills the role of warrior and does so quite well. She’s a gorgeous red-headed woman who also happens to be a dwarf. She has a fiery temper and is quite stubborn, but underneath it all lies a caring; protective soul. She favors swords over the traditional Dwarven weapons; axes and hammers haven’t been her thing in the story so far. Will she be as hot if she grows her beard back in? With Roc Upchruch drawing it anything is possible.
Even the supporting cast is handled well, with insights into why they do what they do and who they are. The local townsfolk feel alive. They have pasts and seem to know the Rat Queens by their deeds and notoriety. Other adventuring groups are introduced early on and are as varied as the Rat Queens themselves with memorable names to boot; like The Four Daves or Peaches.
Thus far we’ve seen the town that the Rat Queens call home and some locales around the surrounding countryside. The town of Palisade is alive and seems realistic to the era. It comes complete with local businesses and fortifications for the town guard. Outside the city we’ve seen forests, rolling hillsides and of course; caves to go adventuring in. The traditional countryside seems vibrant and full of life and therefore dangers.
The first adventure the heroines go on seems like a pretty simple job helping the local guards out. It of course turns out to be anything but simple. They stumble upon an assassination plot and a troll couple that makes life hell for the Rat Queens as well as Palisade. Just like the rest of us; they also have personal problems. These problems vary from parental or brotherly smothering to relationship drama.
Kurtis J Wiebe has been writing books for Image for a while now including Peter Panzerfaust. This is admittedly the first I’ve read of his however. I’ve been following many of his interviews and I might stalk him and his art on Twitter. The diversity in characters was and is intentional.
Roc Upchurch, the book’s artist, draws incredibly lifelike and distinct people. In an effort to further this goal, all four women are of a different race and have different body types. There aren’t many short people let alone short women in comics. There aren’t many stocky women in comics at all. Both are represented here and they are truly awesome characters. This could change things for the better. There is no reason comics have to be a boys club nor does every heroine to be Red Sonja or Power Girl. This comic proves that.
In any case both creators deserve as all the praise the book has gotten and then some. It isn’t easy to create something new in a sword and sorcery world. Yet, they managed to create a story that thrives and produced a large following including cosplayers. It has done so in an explosively fast pace. Issue 6 isn’t even out yet. If you haven’t read Rat Queens yet…get on it.
Rat Queens ladies merch anyone?
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