The fantasy genre, with all its elves, dwarves, and questionable creatures, has long been a bit of a sausage fest. Questers are usually barrel chested, heavily bearded macho men, able to drink their body weight in mead before slaying the dragon of such and such. Time after time, dude after dude, the cycle continues. Boring, amirite? Thankfully, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch are bringing back ladies’ night with their estrogen fueled D&D love fest, Rat Queens.
Made up of four distinctly different femme fatales, each with their own fantasy inspired skill set, the Rat Queens protect the outskirts of their fair town in between getting hammered and kicking the shit out of people. There’s Hannah, the elven mage; Dee, a human cleric; Violet, a dwarven warrior; and Betty, some sort of imp like creature who loves candy and drugs. If that sounds ridiculous, it reads even more so. Wiebe’s script is absolutely bonkers, and I love it.
Queens introduces us to the women at a time when their standing in the city is less than great. It seems the cons of their behavior outweigh the pros of their protection, and as such they’re reassigned to a far less glamorous job. Various hijinks ensue, and soon the Queens have to use their impressive abilities and even more impressive vocabulary to come out on top. At times the tone was a bit uneven for me, as the mix of traditional fantasy and modern verbiage doesn’t always mesh. I get what Wiebe is going for here, putting a modern twist on an age old concept, yet I still have a hard time accepting “Dickcheese” as part of the vernacular. After a second (and third) read, however, I found myself appreciating the jargon. This series isn’t about being serious, or fantasy authentic (if there is such a thing). Instead, Rat Queens takes conventional fantasy and gives it the finger, the result a rollicking and thoroughly entertaining adventure that completely flips the usual “band of brothers” trope.
Wiebe imbues his characters with such personality right out of the gate that it’s hard not to like them immediately. These are no damsels in distress. The Rat Queens can out fight, out swear, and out drink any man set before them. Wiebe does a nice job balancing debauchery with femininity, crafting fully believable, albeit gutter minded, characters. His blend of action and wit is also well done, though some of the jokes just miss their landing. To put it simply, Rat Queens is rad, its unique premise and hilarious characters well worth the cover price.
That said, you don’t buy funny books just for the words, do you? Artist Roc Upchurch brings some crazy good visuals to the table here, injecting the book with an energy that leaps off the page. His character work is fantastic, as every Queen’s scowl, sneer, and pout is exquisitely rendered. He also excels at visual scripting, each layout and panel superbly executed and exciting. If you hadn’t heard of Upchurch before, consider this his coming out party; it’s that good.
Rat Queens #1 is full of hot babes, crazy action, and all the magic, ninjas, and drugs you can handle. Basically, everything you’d want in a comic. Wiebe and Upchurch are obviously having fun, and we lucky readers get to reap the benefits. Rat Queens already has the makeup of being something special, so put on your +10 questing doublet and get buying!