Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sketched Comic: Rat Queens

Get out your healing spells and prayers to your flying squids, we're reviewing Rat Queens Vol. 1, by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch!

Hannah the rockabilly Elven mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven fighter, Dee the Atheist human cleric, and Betty the Hippy Hobbit thief, are the 4 bad-ass members of the adventuring group known as the Rat Queens. They're defenders of the small town of Palisades, and willing to kill anything for the right amount of money. But when they're drunken bar fights get them into trouble, they'll be forced to take a quest that will stretch their abilities and tempers to the limits!

Holy crap this is everything I want in a book. There are four badass women in your classic D&D setting, getting drunk, having sex, fighting monsters, and swearing at each other all the way. It's hilarious, action-packed, and has a great style. If you like D&D, hilarious drunk swearing, and diversity, this is the holy grail of comics. And the Rat Queens will steal that grail and do keg stands off of it.

I don't know where to begin. There are so many good things! The action? The action. There's tons of crazy action! You know how in fantasy settings they always having healing spells that can heal anything, but people never seem to get that hurt? People get mangled in this. At one point their mage gets her arm torn to pieces so bad the bones are showing and it's hanging by a thread of skin. But all they have to do is use a healing spell and voilà it’s back to normal! It really lends itself to situations where characters can get ridiculously hurt but don't have to deal with the realistic repercussions of staying in the hospital for weeks. This is not a realistic book! It is a crazy person's manifesto for awesome ridiculous fight scenes.

And, hello, diversity! Finally, an action book with four female leads. FOUR! That is crazy. Why is that so crazy? Why is it so crazy that there's a comic with four female leads that I have to go crazy over it?? Holy crap this is great. And they all have different in-depth characters! The author, Wiebe did a fantastic job making these characters feel complex. Dee is a cleric who doesn't believe in the god she takes her powers from. That's so weird. But more than that, her character is great. She's always the one with the plan and she's cool-headed in battle, but she is an awkward wallflower in any kind of social situation. And Violet is a hipster dwarf? That is fantastic. "I shaved my beard before it was cool. Maybe I'll start growing it back." We might get a female character with facial hair! With HIPSTER facial hair! I cannot wait for a badass Dwarf woman with a hipster beard. That is a comic I want in my hands RIGHT NOW.

It's a really fun, hilarious comic. And it also does a lot of meta humor, of which I am a known fan. At one point they're talking about Dee's backstory and one goes, "Why are we talking about this now? You think in the three years of knowing each other, it would have come up sooner." "Eh, it just felt like the right time." Fantastic. The dialogue is incredibly fun to read. They always sound like friends shooting shit at a bar, coming up with more inventive swearing and ways to make fun of each other. It's not unheard of that one will yell BALLS while being thrown by a troll. They fight over which one of them has the best and worst one-liners. It feels like 4 awesome women sitting around, drinking, and having a D&D session. It reminds me a lot of I Hit It With My Axe on the Escapist back in the day.

Volume one collects the first 5 issues, and it's a story that has a lot of twists and turns as they try to find out who's after them. But it's done in a way where they're kind of terrible at finding stuff out and it's all pretty silly. Instead of plot points coming out and having all the characters have a big splash page realization, you'll get one character going, "Well of course it was that person. I knew that." I love how the Rat Queens is only one of many themed adventuring parties, another of which is named "The Four Daves" which is just 4 guys named Dave. FANTASTIC. 

The only thing I'm not super excited about is the art. I love the character design and it's beautifully colored, but they keep the pencils instead of inking. There are a lot of places where it looks unfinished. It never really hampered my enjoyment of the book, and if they're using it to give the book and setting a "dirty' feel, I can respect that, but maybe it's my being an artist that seeing some of the pages makes me think someone forgot to erases some messy pencil lines. It's a minor annoyance in an otherwise amazing book.

I can't recommend this book enough. If you like awesome female characters, D&D, and hilarious raunchy humor, you will love this. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

THE GOOD: Great art style and character design, really diverse cast, FOUR women as protagonists, great complex characters, hilarious, great dialogue, great fight scenes, cool twisting funny story.

THE BAD: Pencil lines can sometimes make the work look unfinished.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ Go read it! Buy it! Share it with your friends! You can buy the first volume either in paperback or through Comixology and if you like funny and awesome adventuring books, you will not be disappointed.

BOOKS LIKE IT: Skullkickers, Looking For Group, The Underburbs, Red Sonja, Braxo, Nimona, Mouse Guard, Gastrophobia 

ONE-PAGE METAPHOR: One of their first fights is with an assassin. As they expertly take him down, they can't stop from cracking wise and generally having great dialogue. "Tentacles. What is it with men and tentacles? I'm sick of this shit." Fan-fucking-tastic.

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