By Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch
The new series by Kurtis J. Wiebe has been highly anticipated, and not only did the first issue of Rat Queens not disappoint, it exceeded all expectations. This book takes a darkly humorous approach to fantasy in a way that vastly surpasses anything like it. Although there are subtle nods to classic pen & paper roleplaying games, the story doesn’t lean on this aspect. Issue #1 has laid the groundwork for a terrifically written tale that can easily be enjoyed by fans of any genre.
The first installment in this wonderful new series suggests that this is a very character-driven story. However, these characters are anything but typical and are, in fact, very interesting and well constructed. The Queens include a rockabilly elf mage, a hippy dwarf warrior, an atheist human cleric, and a hipster hobbit thief. The humorous mix of real and fantasy world character traits not only make for extremely entertaining reading but they make these characters feel far more real than those in other fantasy stories. Each of the protagonists already seems to have a well-fleshed personality, and the interactions between the characters is absolutely magnificent. Normally it takes a new book some time to get a feel for the relationships and social interactions of the main characters, but Rat Queens #1 transcends the need for the slow acquisition of character familiarity.
The way the ladies speak to each other feels incredibly natural, particularly given the great dialogue found throughout the book. Not only is the dialogue some of the most sincerely funny available in modern comic books, but the blend of real world situations and attitudes that these characters convey are fitted into the wonderful fantasy world with masterful precision; nothing feels forced or out of place. Again, it’s the comedy in Rat Queens #1 that is its shining star: a lot of humor comic books are quite funny, but this series has laugh-out-loud moments on practically every page. This is among the best-crafted humor of the decade.
The artwork in Rat Queens is provided by Roc Upchurch, and this aspect of the book is also magnificent and perfectly suited to the tone of the story. First off, the character designs are fantastic. The costumes are very fitting for the personality and background of each, and they just look good in their own right. The facial expressions are also magnificent in the sense that they are not only realistic and accurate, but often serve to further the humorous tone. The apparent realism and detail can be partly attributed to the wonderful colors and shading. The color palette employed often has a very light sensibility to it that makes each panel feel vibrant and life like, and also helps to convey a light-hearted, adventurous tone. Aside from all of the humor, the action sequences are dynamic and the character poses are very well modeled.
Rat Queens #1 is one of the most sincerely funny comic books you could be reading this month. However, if you were to remove the generous dose of humor from its pages, this book would still have a wonderful story that would maintain its interesting qualities. That really seems like a hallmark for an incredibly well crafted tale. While the quality of the humor vastly exceeds that found elsewhere, the plot is capable of standing on its own. Not only are the characters incredibly interesting, but the general sense of high adventure which underlines this book makes for a very fun read. The artwork is gorgeous, with particularly well rendered characters. Rat Queens has quickly and easily smashed its way into this reviewer’s top 5 current titles. Everything in this issue, including some of the more familiar territory, feels fresh and relevant. Other fantasy and humor writers should take note of how things should be done by reading the first installment, and if you enjoy fun comic books with great characters, then you’d do well not to miss out on this one either!