Review: Rat Queens (Vol. 1)

My friend told me i had to read this comic. “You’ll love it,” she said. “It has badass queer ladies and badass POCs and ladies who drink and swear and it’s awesome.” To be honest, I was intrigued but skeptical. Parodies of the fantasy genre are so numerous that they might as well be their own genre at this point. “Hey, we’ll have an atheist Cleric! Har har!” “Let’s be sure to put in a joke about dwarf women and beards because no one’s ever done that before!” It’s been done so often that it’s just tiresome.

In that light, does Rat Queens have the most original story and setting?

No, not really.

Is it still awesome?

Yes.

Rat Queens stars the titular Rat Queens, an adventuring party made up of four women: Hannah, the “rockabilly elven mage” who takes no shit and gives zero fucks, Violet, the “hipster dwarven warrior” who shaved her beard back when it actually meant something, Dee, the atheist human cleric whose parents worship a giant squid, and the hippy halfling thief Betty, whose idea of a good meal is drugs and candy. The series follows their exploits in and around the town of Palisade. The paperback edition collects issues 1-5.

The setting will be familiar to anyone even passably familiar with the Standard Fantasy Setting. There are adventuring parties made up of various classes who go around slaying monsters and stuff, and yes, there are references to dwarven women having beards and atheist clerics. It’s the Rat Queens themselves that make this comic special. They’re a quartet of badass ladies who drink, swear, kick ass (in ways that are frequently bloody) and are loyal to each other.

The characters are what makes this comic great for me. I love how Hannah takes no shit at all and the way Dee acts during a party (with her nose stuck in a book avoiding all opportunities to socialize) reminds me of me at parties. I love how Betty constantly provides comic relief with references to drug use and innuendo but isn’t just a comic relief character. She’s sweet and, like the rest of the Queens, perfectly capable of kicking ass when she needs to, even Violet’s firm rejection of dwarvish cultural traditions struck a chord with me. None of them  annoyed me and I didn’t think one received more characterization than the others.

At first I wasn’t too thrilled with the art. It’s a very cartoonish style that wasn’t really doing anything for me. I think the best part about the art is the facial expressions. The characters are so expressive. You can see their emotions written all over their faces. The art style did take some getting used to (especially since I don’t read a lot of comics) but it can’t be said that the characters aren’t expressive.

Yes, Violet, yes she did.

It’s also pretty diverse. Dee and Sawyer (who is Captain of the Guard in Palisade) are both black and there are characters of colour in the other adventuring groups as well as in the background. Betty is a lesbian and gets an on-screen kiss with her ex-girlfriend. There are also a pretty good range of body types from the short and svelte Betty to the heavyset Braga (Braga is awesome, btw). Some of the outfits are kind of fanservice-y but interestingly enough, the outfits on some of the male characters are no less impractical and characters like Violet are actually wearing practical clothing that suits the type of job that they’re doing.

Rat Queens doesn’t away from being violent and bloody. There’s no nudity but there are some revealing outfits, and sex is not shown at all. Women also tend to throw misogynistic insults at one another, and of course there are the drug and alcohol references. As I said, these ladies aren’t afraid to cuss up a storm when shit hits the fan.

Along with Saga, Rat Queens is definitely a comic I’ll be following. The setting might not be the most original but it’s made me laugh more than once and I already can’t wait to read the next few issues. (The next trade paperback is out in January). If you want a fun (if times dark) fantasy adventure with a crew of badass ladies, go check out Rat Queens.

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