Monday 18 May 2015

Rat Queens

Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic, 2015
(May 2015)

Less of the sass this time around, which is no bad thing. Rat Queens continues to be best described as bloody good fun.

Ah, the joys of dorm living. Volume 2 picks up with the bleary-eyed, hungover stocktaking after the excesses of the night before, which resembles nothing so much as a uni halls of residence after an end of term party, walks of shame and all. No coincidence there, I think. The pretence with most fantasy is that what you’re being shown isn’t merely a thinly disguised reinvention of the real world, but in Rat Queens that pretence isn’t so much disguised as flaunted; the mask ripped off and waved in your face because hell, why the fuck not? It’s an attitude that could fall over into annoying clever-clever irony all too easily, but here is done with such persistent glee that you can only warm to it. Given the option, who wouldn’t conjure up an invisibility spell to smuggle an instantly regretted sexual contest past the knowingly raised eyebrows of their friends?

After the intitial attention-getting punch of the first volume, here we pull back a little. The story is thus a little less well-defined, and functions largely as an excuse for a series of flashbacks exploring the lead characters’ backstories in a bit more depth. Individually these bits are great, but the choppy choppy nature they inspire in the storytelling does rob the grand dénouement of a bit of punch. But fuck it, the characters are the main selling points to this series, and if you’re going to play to your strengths there’s a lot to be said for doubling down on that and letting the rest take care of itself. Plus there are a couple of great new additions to the mix. I’ve already got a major crush on Lola; hard not to after seeing her get five almost dialogue-free pages of knocking the shit out of seven guys all twice her size.

There’s a change of artist after chapter eight, and Sejic’s style is similar enough to Upchurch’s for it not to feel totally jarring. In fact, I’m a big fan of the new look in general, with one not insignificant reservation: all the women’s faces look the same. It perhaps doesn’t help that I not so recently discovered Sejic’s Sunstone (highly recommended, btw. A genuinely sexy ‘sexy’ comic that is in absolutely no way, shape, or form suitable for viewing at work), and the new Hannah and Tizzie are disconcertingly similar to Ally and Lisa, but nevertheless in a series in which all the main female characters are so clearly distinctive and individual any kind of homogenizing effect is best avoided. Still, early days.

The aside, the art is undeniably gorgeous and the characters are getting more, not less, interesting as we find out more about them. I’ll leave you with this poorly photographed excerpt which I like for many reasons, but primarily for Violet and Orc Dave cheerfully wreaking havoc in the background:

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