Imaginative, fierce, and even silly in parts, Rat Queens is an entertaining adventure story realized with genuine comedic flair and winning art. Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe, co-creator Meg Dejmal, and artist Roc Upchurch, present a series that captures some of the core elements of high fantasy with palpable affection and ease; and offer a modern twist on the established genre. This yet to be released on-going is told in five-issue arcs, is inspired by role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and is nothing less than a gem of pure, unadulterated fun.
“Rat Queens” follows a ragtag bunch of bar-brawling battle maidens (say that ten times fast), whose disorderly lifestyles are the cause of much concern in the village of Palisade. After violent circumstances land them in the dungeons with the rest of the village Neanderthals, a town official by the name of Sawyer Silver offers to release them on behalf of disgruntled Mayor, Atticus Kane; provided they complete a monster hunting quest for him. For a group of death-dealing contract killers, their assigned task should be a cake walk; but all is not what it seems.
Without being overbearingly informative or rushing the narrative, Wiebe handles the encumbrance of exposition and character introduction exceptionally well. Readers are not privy to the girls’ history, or how they came to have such camaraderie; but their dynamic and hilarious dialogical interactions effectively demonstrates their true companionship. There is “Hannah the rockabilly elven mage, Violet the hipster dwarven fighter, Dee the atheist human cleric, and Betty the hippy hobbit thief.” With vibrant personalities that are as fleshed out and distinguished as their visual character designs, both Wiebe and Upchurch introduce an amazingly diverse and likeable cast of badass individuals; making it far too difficult to pick favourites.
Upchurch’s artwork strides with distinct style and dignity toward the final pages of the book, and by then, the charm it casts is just about faultless. He captures the light and whimsical tone of the series well, while also representing the violently dark aspects of Wiebe’s vision in brutal fashion. There is a fluidity in his illustrations when depicting scenes of extreme action. He demonstrates this particularly well when the Rat Queens go into “Attack Pattern Alpha” mode on their foes; stock poses, battle cries, and all. From colours, to inks, and panel layouts, the issue is impressively pieced together and thoroughly topped with a deliciously glossy finish.
The first installment of “Rat Queens” sets a high standard for the rest of the series and is a perfect introduction to Wiebe and Upchurch’s darkly comedic, action-adventure fantasy world. Though an amusing and unquestionably fun read, the issue promises more bloodshed and potentially sinister story developments in the upcoming chapters. Definitely a series worth checking out.
Reviewed by – ShadowJayd