Sunday, 1 June 2014

Comic Review: Rat Queens Vol. 1 – Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art & covers: Roc Upchurch
Published by Image Comics on April 28, 2014
ISBN: 9781607069454
Pages: 128
Genre: fantasy, adventure
This trade paperback collects issues 1-5.

This series is about an adventuring group of four female mercenaries who cause a lot of trouble in their home village, Palisade. Hannah, a elven mage; Betty, a smidgen thief; Violet, a dwarven fighter and Bee, a human cleric take a quest of killing monsters, during which they find out that someone is plotting against them in order to eliminate all the adventuring groups in Palisade.

Take The Lord of the Rings, throw in some alcohol, boisterous parties, sex, pubs, a lot of cursing, and butt-kicking females, and then top it all off with the wit and sass of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.
[You all know how appropriate these types of descriptions are – like all the annoying “If you’re a fan of Twilight, you’re going to love this“-stickers – so please don’t take it too seriously.]


I highly enjoyed the artwork, so, immediately after finishing the trade, I had to check if if he is working on any other series. The only thing that came up was Vescell, which I’ve never heard of before.

The images are colourful, detailed and all in all remarkably beautiful to look at. I especially love the artwork for Hannah (on the left, the one with black hair) and Betty (right). The latter has a huge head in comparison to the rest of her tiny body. It looks adorably cute, and moreover, it’s rather comical and ironic, considering the fact that she throws curses around all the time.

Since there are several fight scenes that don’t involve a lot of talking in this volume, the images serve to tell the story just as much as the text does.
Each page consists of an average number of panels (~5) that are neatly arranged. During fight scenes, the shape of the images differs from their otherwise rectangular form, which conveys a sense of movement. The pages are rather glossy.

This was extremely entertaining and fun to read!
The four protagonists are very charismatic and funny. Although they are all quite different in character, they are equally compelling and feisty, and I quickly grew attached to them.
I don’t often come across ladies who are as independent and strong-willed as these ones – at least not in comics.

I really enjoyed that you are thrown right into the middle of the story, and you have to discover the background of the characters step-by-step. That way, it seems as if Rat Queens has been around for ages, and as if you’ve known these characters just as long. I hope Kurtis J. Wiebe is going to elaborate a lot more on Sawyer Silver (captain of the guard) and Hannah’s shared history in further issues – there’s some unresolved sexual tension for sure. : )

The only thing that bothered me was that, even though the narrative is fast-paced, I think it would have benefitted the story to cut the fight scenes a bit shorter. I found myself skimming through these particular pages at times. But that might just be my personal preference.
Also, I wouldn’t advise anyone under the age of ~14 to read this, since it contains a fair share of violence. Nothing disturbing, but, you know – you don’t want to scare the little ones. They probably wouldn’t get some of the jokes, either.
This series comprises a lot of swearing and dirty humour without being primitive, and I absolutely love that. It was hilarious! But if you have a problem with it, this might not be for you.

Rat Queens has the potential to become one of my favourites, and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the second trade – which might take a while, as issue #7 doesn’t come out until the 25th of June.

Image Comics is currently offering a free digital preview on their website. They also have the first issue of various other series available for free, so if you’re interested in that, feel free to browse through their collection.
The preview is not included in the trade paperback, but is only available digitally. You need to register in order to be able to download it; however, the sign-up process is pretty quick. The issue is rather short, but at least you can get a feel for the artwork, the general tone of the story and its characters.

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