I don’t read a lot of comic books, at least not mainstream ones. I’ve got maybe one volume of Gail Simone’s recent Batgirl run, and that’s it for Marvel or DC. Any comics I do read are collected in volume format, and have nothing to do with super heroes.
I’m here to talk to you about one of those comics. It’s called Rat Queens.
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch, Rat Queens is about your near-typical fantasy RPG group—consisting of a dwarf warrior, elf mage, human cleric, and smidgen (Halfling) thief—with the twist being that the entire group is made up of women. The story follows Hannah (elf), Dee (human), Violet (dwarf), and Betty (smidgen) as they do everything from starting bar brawls to slaying trolls, to out-classing assassins.
While I’m not intimately involved in comic book culture, I know that it’s not an easy place for women. Sexism is abound with unimagined ladies who are killed off to cause man-pain, and women are drawn without the figure necessary for housing vital organs and apparently have snakes for spines. The lack of diversity and development for female characters is a serious issue with female fans. It’s to the point where DC has put out a slew of Superman and Batman movies, but Wonder Woman has been stuck in development hell for years because the idea of a super hero movie with a female lead was deemed “too confusing.”
There’s nothing confusing about Rat Queens.
When Wiebe created these characters, he set out to make women that people could relate to, or recognize as a friend, family member, or lover. His goal was to create realistic women, and I think he succeeded. These ladies are vulgar and badass, but they’ve got kind, sensitive sides, and struggles that are only hinted at so far. Dee the Cleric, a class that relies of divine magic, seriously questions her religion; Violet has struggles with her family; Hannah, easily the most vulgar of the group, has a soft-side that comes out in her relationship with the guard captain Sawyer Silver; Betty has relationship troubles (largely thanks to Hannah). They’ve got very real lives outside of their day-jobs as battle-maidens-for-hire, and the friendship they share is genuine. I would totally hang out with any of these women (and sometimes I get the impression that I have) even at the risk of horrible mutilation via orcs.
And they’re backed up by an equally interesting and hilarious cast. Outside of the ladies, we’ve got Tizzie, another elf mage who has an intense rivalry with Hannah; Braga, a half-orc woman and all around badass whose part of Tizzie’s group; Old Lady Bernadette (who’s only thirty-nine); The Four Daves, another group of adventurers similar to our heroines but made up of four guys named Dave; and fucking Gary.
And that’s just a few. There’s promises of more in future issues.
Upchurch’s art is fantastic. The characters are wonderfully expressive and all of them are identifiable at a glance. The women actually look like women, and if they’re being twisted into uncomfortable positions, it’s because some monster is trying to rip them apart. Rather than make fun of the typical skimpy female armor, the characters all have proper outfits: Violet wears metal armor, Betty wears loose clothes to allow for maximum range of movement, Hannah and Dee both wear cloth armor, with Hannah’s being more elfish while Dee has a cool tribal voodoo look going on. The cast showcases a variety of body-types (rare stuff with female comic book characters), species, and ethnicities. The world is well-imagined despite not going far out of the city of Palisade, and has a lot of room for expansion.
Rat Queens also has a lot of offer in the way of comedy. From the main group’s antics, to the vulgarity, to the good natured jabs at fantasy MMORPGs, there’s a lot of laughs to be had. Readers may get a sudden laugh at unexpected gore or an accurately placed curse.
Rat Queens has a lot to offer in the way of character, comedy, and adventure. The first volume started and ended with a bang, and now I’m hungry for volume two. Whether you’re a guy who enjoys fantasy, a girl who wants to see more strong female leads, or someone off the binary who just loves a good story, I recommend seeing what the Rat Queens have to offer.