One of the cooler things about One Of Us is that it both as a content creator and as a general reader, I’m getting recommendations on new things to check out. Case in point, Christopher J. Herman put up this really nice article about some indie comics titles that he thought people should be checking out. While all the choices in that list are great, what caught my eye was the book I knew the least about (which is to say nothing), Rat Queens.
Herman described the title as “a book about four female mercenaries who take enjoyment on completing every quest, and even more enjoyment drinking and sleeping with anything that has two legs”. With a statement like that, how could I not grab the first trade and check this sucker out?
Rat Queens is about a mercenary group of the same name that protects the city of Palisade. By protect, I of course mean getting drunk and/or high, starting fights, and destroying private and public property in between quests. The group consists of rockabilly elf and mage Hannah, hipster warrior dwarf Violet, candy and drug guzzling hippie smidgen (think hobbit) thief Betty, and the human cleric Dee, a former cultist of a Cthulhu-esque monster turned atheist.
A merry band of misfits if ever there was one.
Right out the gate the book pulls no punches. The Queens are rude, crude, and hyper-violent. It’s part of their charm. While they may have somewhat of a code and occasionally try to do good-ish things, the book makes no bones that the Queens are in fact horrible people. No worse than any of the darker fantasy male fantasy characters such as Conan, Geralt of Rivia, and the like (which is part of the point), but there isn’t a good one among the bunch. Even Betty, the nicest and most moral Queen, is a mess of drug abuse and violence.
What gives the Rat Queens their edge above the rest however, is how easy it is to connect and understand these characters. There is a lot more that makes these ladies tick than just their bad behavior. They each have issues that young people (mostly women, but men too) face, such as questions of identity, maturity, religion, and purpose in life. Each of the Queens is trying to break free and live a life by her own rules as opposed to those their respective cultures place on them. This is what makes Rat Queens an empowering read.
Well that, and it is funny as hell.
While the writing of Kurtis J. Wiebe is sharp as a tack, what really brings this book to life is Roc Upchurch’s art. Each of the Queens is unique and has their own realistic body type! In an industry that thinks often all women should have impossible spines and giant breasts that defy physics and nature, having some characters drawn with more natural proportions is a breath of fresh air. Yes, I do realize how odd it is for me to be praising a book with elves, dwarves, and hobbit-like people as realistic, but hey, credit where it’s due. The violence is extreme and in your face. It is really good the Queens have a healer on their crew, as they often end up about as messed up as the baddies they fight.
When I first read this collection it didn’t click for me. I was kind of sad that I was going to have to give a book that seemed to have so much potential and a strong chance of pulling in female readers a mediocre review. To try and put my thoughts together, I decided to run through the book again and that is when the magic happened. My first run had been clouded by what I thought the book should be and do, making the classic critic mistake of judging what I wanted to see instead of what is actually there.
With a head cleared of expectations, I met Rat Queens on its own terms and the book took off for me. I am happy to support it and if you have any young ladies (not too young mind you, this is a mature book after all) in your life looking for something in the comics world to represent them, Rat Queens might be the place to start. This collection is cheap, you’ll be able to swag it either online or at your local comic shop for under 10 bucks, so you have absolutely zero excuse not to give it a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.
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