One of the titles to take the comics world by storm in the last year and a half has been Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe and John “Roc” Upchurch. As artist, Upchurch quite ably brings the Queens and their surroundings to life. Different body types abound and each panel in the book is illustrated beautifully. The action scenes are given a real sense of motion, and even the quiet moments seem special.
Kurtis J. Weibe has a great writing style, conveying the different voices of each character. He has described his work as being a “love letter” to his love of the Dungeons & Dragons game, and it shows. The characterization in the Rat Queens is remarkable. Each of the ladies has a fantastic personality, and it’s easy to identify with them at various times. Some stories with bad-ass warrior women tend toward caricature, but the Queens (and all the other warrior women in the book) are very well-rounded. Like Lumberjanes, this is a book about women who are friends, support each other, and watch each other’s backs. The Rat Queens has been nominated for several awards, most recently in comics category for the GLAAD media awards. Sass & Sorcery is the first graphic novel, collecting issues 1-5. This first volume is full of action, but also wit, humor, and some genuinely touching moments.
The Rat Queens are a mercenary group from the medieval period town of Palisades. At the beginning of the story, quests are assigned to various mercenary groups and the infamous Queens are given one that takes them to a cave outside the town limits. Given that their entrance to the scene is throwing someone through a window, their infamy seems deserved. There is some trash talk before they set out, cementing the impression that they’re not universally liked.
As they trek through the woods to their destination, small bits of background information are revealed through discussions – the reason for the bar brawl back in town, their parental issues, and we learn Betty should never be in charge of packing the food because she brought candy and drugs for dinner. When they arrive at the cave, Betty checks for traps and observes a pair of “random boots” that end up belonging to an assassin. A fight ensues, with each of the Queens bringing their skills to bear along with an awesome display of teamwork.
Their fight is ended abruptly when a troll squashes the assassin with his hammer before they can get any information about who set them up. One of them is severely injured, but Dee’s skills as a healer are able to mend her for the journey back to town. On the way, they encounter two members of The Peaches, another local mercenary group, who are fighting for their lives against another assassin. Two members of The Peaches remain and the Queens are able to help them survive, though one has a narrow brush with death.
They all make it back to town and that night at the tavern over drinks, talk turns to who might have set them all up. Very few of the mercenaries that were sent on quests that day actually returned alive.
In the heat of it all, Hannah has too much to drink and ends up in the drunk tank, where we get an insight into her past and her relationship with one of the guards in town. The Queens are resolved to investigate the Merchant’s Guild, having been persuaded that it wasn’t the mayor who set them up. Dee and Betty scope out the Merchant’s Guild’s office the next day while chatting up the Guildmaster to check out their theory. Right when there’s a break, word comes that Palisades is under attack from an army led by a troll woman who’s pretty pissed that the Rat Queens killed her boyfriend.
Rat Queens is ongoing and shows no signs of slowing down. Volume 1 is currently available while number 2, The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, is available for pre-order, with an April release date. This series is an incredibly fun ride, so go visit your local comic shop and check it out.