There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we roll for initiative with “Rat Queens.”
Who is This By?
“Rat Queens” is written by Kurtis Wiebe, with Owen Gieni on the illustrations and color. Ryan Ferrier provides the letter work, and Tim Daniel does the frame design.
What’s it All About?
The Rat Queens are a group of ass-kicking, hard-partying, monster-slaying ladies. They reside in your typical fantasy town of Palisade, where they take on various adventuring jobs to pay for their next round of drinks, while pissing off pretty much everyone they come across.
The Queens consist of Hannah, the party mage whose spells consist almost exclusively of the painful explosive kind (and a bit of necromancy); Betty, the Smidgen (basically a Halfling) thief with a heart big enough for all her friends plus drugs and candy; Violet, the dwarf fighter who left her clan to find herself, and Dee, the party cleric (now multi-classed into ranger) who discovered that the god her people worship is, in fact, an evil Lovecraftian entity that must be killed. In recent chapters, they’ve also been joined by Braga, the boisterous orc barbarian and a welcome addition to their ranks.
Throughout the series, they’ve gone on dungeon crawls, saved the town from destruction (that may or may not have been their fault to begin with), and even faced the eldritch spawn of ancient elder beings from time beyond time. However, their greatest tales more often than not come from their own lives and histories.
More than the adventures, though, it’s a story of four complex characters who have come together in spite of their flaws. They grow, they face their issues together, we learn more about who they are, and then they get really freaking drunk, steal a cart, and kill an ogre.
While the series did do a “soft reboot” for volume 4, continuity remains more or less untouched from the earlier series. In fact, this month’s chapter gives more details about what happened between volumes 3 and 4, filling in the gaps for an important character arc.
As of late, though, characters have begun disappearing from around them, not just gone, but forgotten. That’s where the story resumes this month, but how can the Rat Queens solve a mystery they can’t even remember is happening?
What Makes it so Great?
Think about the greatest “Dungeons & Dragons” campaigns you’ve been a part of. Now imagine that same spirit, that combination of comedy, action, fantasy storytelling, and character work is put into comic book form, with a cast of strong female leads, and excellent artwork. That’s just a smidgen of what makes “Rat Queens” great.
Perhaps the greatest strength to the comic lies in its characters. The Queens are strong, independent, adventuring women, each with fleshed-out personalities, backstories, strengths and flaws, histories, motivations, and generally everything it takes to be a well-written character. They’re boisterous, debaucherous, foul-mouthed, sexual but not over-sexualized, and in spite of all the drugs and violence, still share strong bonds of friendship. We as readers feel their struggles, celebrate their successes, and enjoy the moments of hilarity.
The comic is, of course, absolutely hilarious. Kurtis Wiebe comes up with insanely clever ideas, like a salesman living inside a monster’s guts, or a quest to find three artifacts that form a magical totem of cock-and-balls. The comedic timing is pitch-perfect, and Owen Gieni’s artwork can capture both the serious, the intense, and the humorous with the same level of quality.
When it wants to, though, the comedy is balanced out with action or serious character drama. No moments feel out of place; it’s all part of the adventuring life. We’re either cheering for the Queens, laughing with them, or weeping for them, and every moment is worth the ride.
“Rat Queens” also deserves credit for its level of representation. To cite one example, this is the first and only comic I’ve ever read with a trans-woman orc barbarian as a main character, and it is all the better for it.Continued below
How Can You Read it?
Go to your nearest book store or comic shop, pick up the first four volumes, and read them all. Once you’re done with that, find the latest issues for what will be the fifth volume, either at the comic shop or online on Comixology or Image’s website.
No, seriously, go do that right now. You won’t regret it.
Also keep in mind that chapter 16 can only be found online, and while it isn’t the most plot-heavy, fans of “Critical Role” will love the cameos in it. There’s also a chapter on Orc Dave, for those who want to get the full “Rat Queens” experience.