by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
It’s the morning after and the start of a new story arc for the Rat Queens Betty, Dee, Hannah and Violet. A little cleaning of the air, a couple of new characters and a new mission await. Follow up issues can be difficult for new series, especially after the conclusion of their premier story arc. Wiebe and Upchurch have no difficulty giving readers an entertaining start to the new storyline.
The city has been saved, some art work has been re-imagined and the Rat Queens find themselves in a pretty lucrative situation. Given a new mission to protect caravans entering the city, the Queens clear some air, share some feelings and do a little bonding. Sawyer is tasked with locating Bernadette, a discovery that leaves a bad taste in his mouth and introduces the main conflict for the story arc. At the end of the issue, the ladies come home to find two people from their past, both bring with them a startling surprise.
The rambunctious and boundary breaking tone and script that make Rat Queens an adult fantasy epic hasn’t changed going into the new story arc. The crude humor is not shoehorned into the story for the sake of shock value. Wiebe writes a smart script and some witty dialogue all the while keeping the jokes natural. This makes the characters more relatable and the story interesting. Each of the Queens has distinct personalities which thanks to Wiebe and Upchurch’s skills is refreshing and takes them beyond stereotyped fantasy character troupes. Wiebe gives his characters personalities that are better rounded and more humanistic than role playing game character sheet.
Roc Upchurch artwork also breaks from the traditional sword and sorcery genre. There is a sense of modesty in the art; it’s subtle and effective in pulling the reader into the fantasy world without over doing the medieval references on each panel. The panel breaking to emphasis either action, emotion or reveals is subtle as well but effective. The unique body language and facial expressions Upchurch consistently gives each character helps frame their personality. Upchurch’s art also successfully captures the tones of the book’s settings. Upchurch’s colors and shading differentiate between the bluish haze of rain to dark murkiness in an abandoned castle help set the mood of each scene.
This issue is a good starting point for any reader who may be familiar with Rat Queens through word of mouth or for those just finishing up the first trade paperback. This issue has appeal for both fantasy fans and fans of comedic action without being pandering or sophomoric. Wiebe and Upchurch have crafted an excellent beginning to the second story arc without sacrificing the fun that made the first story arc such a fun read.