Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Roc Upchurch

            Comics are great for putting two genres together that you may not think of, and then do great together.  Kurtis J. Wiebe has even done it before, with Peter Panzerfaust combining Peter Pan and World War II action.  Rat Queens combines Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy and Bridesmaids-style comedy…and what do you know, it’s a perfect fit.
            Sass and Sorcery opens with the titular Rat Queens, an all-female group of adventurers, having destroyed a good part of the town of Palisade in a bar brawl.  It turns out that the town is in a time of peace…which leaves all the adventuring parties with nothing to do but drink and wreak havoc.  When they go on a quest to clear out some goblins, they instead find an assassin trying to kill them, and uncover a plot to kill them and the other adventuring parties off.
            When you think fantasy, you probably don’t think of characters that curse, drink, get high and make dick jokes.  And then along come the Rat Queens.  The story here is certainly interesting, if not exceptionally unique, but it’s the humor that brings everything together.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and works well by being ridiculous and playing well with the fantasy setting.  Betty, the Halfling rogue, packs a lunch full of candy and drugs.  Dee Dee is a former cult member who still ends up praying to the cult.  And there’s some nice over-the-top violence, if that’s your thing.  It only parodies some of the fantasy tropes, and takes much more time to make its characters unique and funny on their own.
            And as with all good R-rated comedies, it’s the characters that elevate this from “funny” to “a must-read”.  The Rat Queens are all eminently likeable.  Issue 3 gives them some downtime from being funny and killing things to get some character development, and it’s perfect.  Betty in particular is already my favorite character.  She’s clearly caring and has a big heart, and then she’ll turn around and make a drink of candy and liquor.  Dee Dee’s story also starts to develop near the end, and I’m intrigued.  If the book being great already didn’t have me hooked, there’s a nice lead-in to the next arc here.  And finally, I must say, a fantasy story with people of color and non-heterosexual characters?  Yes please.

            If you like gory fantasies and R-rated comedies, Rat Queens hits every note perfectly.  A must-read from issue 1. 

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