In my last review, for Ron Wimberly’s Prince of Cats, I talked about a comic that mashed up Shakespeare, 1980s Brooklyn, Kung Fu, and hip-hop. The comic I want to talk about today is similar in some respects but mashes up hipster culture, magic, feminism, The Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, HP Lovecraft, 1950s gang movies, comedy, horror, sex and extreme violence.
Today I want to talk to you about Rat Queens by Kurtis Wiebe, or, as it will soon be known, your new favorite comic book.
Rat Queens is set in the fantasy town of Palisade and its surrounding woods. The Rat Queens are a gang of four rambunctious adventurers and hard-partying revelers. The gang is made up of Betty, a hippy Halfling who enjoys drugs and petty theft; Violet, a hipster dwarf trying to escape her bearded roots; Hannah, a foul-mouthed Rockabilly elf; and Dee, an atheist escapee of a Lovecraft-esque creature worshiping cult.
The first book of the series, Sass and Sorcery, tells the story of how the Rat Queens, along with three of the other Palisadian street gangs, are sent on a mission to redeem themselves after causing too much drunken destruction in the town. The gangs take on their quest and hilarity and violence ensues.
Wiebe infuses his characters with witty, crude dialogue. Each character has a distinct personality that allows them to transcend the usual fantasy clichés of elves being cold, or dwarves being gruff, and lets them be actual people (even if they are people who regularly murder trolls and have sex with orcs).
The artist, Roc Upchurch, does great work giving each character a distinct look, with each of the Queens having different facial features and varied body types. This is especially refreshing considering that most comic book women are usually all tiny waists and big breasts. Upchurch has also done his research when it comes to fashion and modern trends so each character has a distinct style of dress, hair, etc.
Rat Queens is a great gateway comic for people who don’t want to just read about superheroes or zombies. It is also nice to read about female characters who are not put in peril just so a man can rescue them. These characters are a refreshing change from the usual femme fatales or damsels in distress found in comic books. They are loyal, brave, heroic, sexual on their own terms, sneaky, funny and also prone to quiet moments amidst the bloodshed and chaos (something that Wiebe does to great effect).
Not for young age readers but a definite for people looking for something a little new, a little different and a lot awesome.