Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery and Vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth by Kurtis J. Weibe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Šejić
Genre: Comedic Fantasy
Who are the Rat Queens?
A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.
It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!
(from Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery)
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●●
Writing Quality: ●●●●●
Art Style (Vol. 1): ●●●●●
Art Style (Vol. 2): ●●●○○
This is one series I was determined to let pass me by, but in a moment of weakness, I succumbed to a 50% off sale price and bought both Volume 1 and 2. Needless to say, I’m kicking myself for almost missing this series!
Rat Queens is a brilliant, irreverent, brash, crude, fun, witty fantasy story about a group of mercenary women killing things and getting very drunk. It’s super quotable and exactly the kind of story I like to read.
The world-building was not just brilliant for a graphic novel, but, I would say, better established than most fantasy novels I’ve read in the past year. There was so much packed into even the first five issues contained in Volume 1, including religion, race/race dynamics, magic systems, social order, cultures, and complex character relations. It felt like this world had existed long before the story began, and stepping into it was as natural as breathing. The most impressive part was, even with the enormous scope, it never felt rushed. Nor was there any filler. It was so perfectly paced all the way through– I was never bored or confused.
The cast of characters were all so endearing (except Gary. Fuck that guy.) The titular characters are, of course, the four ladies who make up the Rat Queens: Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty. But I was equally as entertained by some of the side characters, including the sweet, muscly, bearded Orc Dave of the Four Daves (another mercenary team). Within these first ten issues (which seems like a lot, but I marathoned them in under an hour), you get to see a lot more backstory than I would have anticipated. I really couldn’t pick a favorite character after getting to know them all!
However, I felt uncomfortable with Dee’s character design and backstory. With her outfit and her background as a member of a tentacle-monster-worshipping cult, she feels too similar to Rose Lalonde from Homestuck, which is a webcomic that has been running for much longer (since April 13, 2009).
Obviously, with Homestuck’s more simplistic MS Paint art-style, it could easily be coincidental. I just thought it was so bizarre and didn’t quite sit well with me.
My major complaint, as reflected in my “art style” ratings, was the sudden switch in art styles in the middle of Volume 2. The art of the first volume worked so well at capturing and enhancing the tone of the series as something fun and magical and tongue-in-cheek, then switched to something that was beautiful, sure, but a lot more dark than I had come to expect from the story. It changed the tone entirely. Now, I understand that it was necessary because the original artist was arrested for domestic abuse, which is a totally valid reason to switch artists. I just was a bit bummed out at how it affected my reading of the story.
As a minor cosmetic detail, none of the cover designs match each other (including the as yet to be released Volume 3). Everything from the logo design to the text placement and font on the front cover to the type of illustration… even the text on the spines don’t match up! Obviously this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story itself, but it does make my eye twitch whenever I see it on the shelf.
I recommend Rat Queens to anyone living or dead or in between. It’s a fun story with a wicked sense of humor and captivating main characters. You won’t be disappointed.