Author: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Series: Rat Queens Vol. 1
Published: April 8, 2014
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Who are the Rat Queens?
A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit.
It's also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!
Collecting Rat Queens #1-5!
Rat Queens is like the book version of http://www.whothefuckismydndcharacter... . The standard D&D races and classes are represented, but what makes the Queens different is each also has an aesthetic that influences her personality. This gives us Violet and Hannah, a relatively standard, if blood thirsty, hipster fighter and rockabilly mage respectively, but it also leads to Betty, the Smidgen (Halfling) hippy thief, who loves free love, candy, and psychedelic mushrooms, and my favorite, Dee, the atheist human cleric.
The book is very tongue in cheek. A scene where Dee explains how her magic works when she doesn't believe in God is punctuated with another character asking, "why haven't we ever talked about this before?" "Convenience." It's aware of the fantasy tropes and it's having a good time playing to them.
The story starts with four quartets of adventurers being assigned quests to make up for yet another bar fight. The Rat Queens are sent to kill a pack of goblins that they just cleared out last month, (damn those respawn times,) but once they make their way to the cave, they're confronted by an assassin's trap. Thus begins our five issue arc as the girls search for and confront their attacker. Each issue gives a little backstory on one of the girls, (Hannah had a thing with the captain of the guard, Betty's girlfriend has left her, Violet's brother wants her to come home, and Dee's parents worship a flying squid,) but the comics are mostly about butchering thine enemies.
These books are M for a reason. There is an excessive amount of drug and alcohol use, bad language, (including the c-word if that's a dealbreaker,) casual sex, and rude gestures, but it's the close-up, gorily detailed brain that pushed it over the edge for me. Have you ever seen a troll deep throat a broadsword the size of a Shetland pony? If you've read issue 4, you have. There's nothing "lady-like" about these women.
While I admire the Rat Queens, I don't necessarily feel the book is written for women, and that's where I'm deducting my half star. There's girl fighting for no real reason, especially between Hannah and the leader of another group, the Peaches. The armor is fairly practical on all characters, except Betty's half shirt and Dee's...bottom. It's not as sexualized as a lot of main stream comics, but Dee takes a hit early on that leaves half her ass hanging out and there are a few boob and butt poses.
Something about Betty's relationship with Faery didn't sit right with me, either. I think it has to do with making the only queer character also the one whose race "like pushing things out almost as much as they like sticking them in". Because female homosexuality is already characterized as slutty, it seems stereotypical. The kiss was rather male gaze-y as well.
Still, I loved Sass & Sorcery a lot. I have a few problems with how the women were portrayed, but I'm willing to overlook them to see a fantasy comic where women are allowed to act as badly as men. Where they're allowed to take control of a sexual encounter and slay a troll and tell crude jokes and drink until the sun comes up. A comic with different body sizes, races, and sexualities. The girls are funny and the story is fun, (though familiar.) It's not perfect, but I'm actually very impressed.