Review - Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Weibe

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Title: Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery

Author: Kurtis J. Wiebe, Illustrated by Roc Upchurch.

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: 8th April 2014

Genre: Comics/Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

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! 

In a nutshell: Three dimensional female mercenaries kicking butt, sass galore, goblins, assassins, a fantasy, RPG style quest ensues. 

Rat Queens takes place in a RPG style, medieval fantasy setting, following the eponymous Rat Queens, an all-female group of mercenaries and the shenanigans and mayhem that ensue as they pay back their debts to the city and  get pulled into investigating recent assassinations.  This first volume collects issues 1-5 and works well as an introduction to the characters and world setting but also incorporates a humorous and fast paced plot.

The rat queens include: Hannah, the rockabilly elf mage (and probably the sassiest of the Rat Queens) Betty, the hippy smidgen thief, Dee, the atheistic human cleric and, Violet the Hipster dwarven Fighter. The characters are my favourite thing about this series for the following reasons:

  • First up, the main cast of characters are all female.
  • Second, the characters are very diverse; there is body diversity and the characters are of different races, sexualities, and beliefs.
  • Thirdly, they each have distinctive personalities and styles, the dialogue and interaction between characters really allows for a definite sense of their personalities and of their friendship. Yay for female friendships!
  • And finally, they kick butt and defy traditional gender stereotypes.

There is also a glimpse of character’s back stories which are likely to be explored in later issues but the inclusion of which adds dimension of the characters. Whilst the character development is not the most extensive, in my opinion, the distinctive personalities make up for this shortcoming.

It’s also refreshing to see women portrayed as heroes, regardless of their physical strength. There is a definite sense of diversity in their power and physical strength, for instance, Hannah relies more on her magic, whilst Violet relies more on her physical strength, but they are all portrayed as valuable assets to the team and heroes equally. To round up my feminist appraisal, Rat Queens really does a good job at presenting complex female characters that break the mould.

Plot wise, Rat Queens is fast paced with two main plot lines, one involving goblins and the other involving assassins! It's action packed and combines a good mixture of action, mystery and humour.  In fact, humour and sass is abundant in Rat Queens. It’s very sassy, as hinted at by ‘Sass and Sorcery’ and did indeed make me laugh out loud, multiple times! *gasp* The humour is also quite crude at times, which although is not my preferred style of humour, I found it worked well. It wasn't too overbearing and worked well in combination with the sass; it fits quite well with the adventuring and questing types.  

The fantasy style setting, combined with the questing was quite reminiscent of RPG video games, something which I really enjoyed. There’s not a lot of reference of the world which was a little disappointing as I wanted to know more about the Rat Queens world than I was given. However, I would recommend Rat Queens to those who may not read a lot of fantasy as whilst the plot is driven by fantasy elements, the characters are really diverse and distinctive!  

The artwork is really fitting of the fantasy setting and the colouring of pages was really pretty and appropriate to the mood of the story. Depicting sass through facial expressions was one of my favourite elements of the art style (so much sass.) 

Overall, I would very much enjoyed Rat Queens and I'm really excited to read and the next volume! If you’re looking for a comic series with a great cast of diverse and complex female characters, abundant with sass and goblin slaying action, Rat Queens is a must read!  My only real complaint is that I want more!

JUST A HEADS UP, this series does include a bit of violence, some gore, crude language, and references to drugs and alcohol; maybe give this a miss if that’s not something you enjoy in your fiction. 

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