Any fan of Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and/or World of Warcraft will reminisce about all the awesome quests you went on, friends you made along the way, and the great variety of characters you created and played with. Take that high fantasy setting and add a party of foul mouthed women who are more than familiar with the words, “collateral damage,” and you get the graphic novel series, Rat Queens written by Kurtis J. Wiebe.
In Rat Queens volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, you meet; Hannah, a powerful elven wizard with necromancers for parents, Violet, a dwarven fighter who refuses to have a beard, Dee, an atheist cleric who comes from a tribe that worships a squid god, and Betty, a halfling thief who always has her mind on shrooms or women (or both). These women make up the maidens-for-hire group known as the Rat Queens. The plot Rat Queens revolves around the consequences of a bar brawl instigated by the Rat Queens which ends up uncovering a dark plot bubbling beneath the surface. Assassins hunt the mercenaries of the town, Palisade, which opens up a tale of intrigue, suspense, and lots of booze.
Rat Queens thrives in its diverse characters and rich development. The lead characters are fully developed, and continue developing as the story progresses. All of the Rat Queens have their own personalities, goals, and ambitions. Each of them gets to share the spotlight. No queen is left out when it comes to discovering where she came from and why they behave the way, they do. Not to mention, Rat Queens portrays their LGBTQ+ characters very well.
While mostly comedic, Rat Queens does express a lot of sincerity for its characters. Wiebe treats each of the characters as if they were real, with feelings and emotions. When tragedy strikes the party, the characters feel it. When something good happens, the characters celebrate it. Sincerity that is not ruined by a joke or running gag is difficult to find nowadays, and Rat Queens revels in it.
Best of all, the characters get to face consequences! Consequences seem to be fading in pop culture so to read a series that dishes out consequences is refreshing. If the Rat Queens do something bad, they’ll suffer the consequences. The government of Palisade recognizes the property damage done by the Rat Queens and other mercenaries in the town and punishes them for it. Again, it is super refreshing to see that Wiebe treats the world of Rat Queens as a living, breathing environment that adds a touch of realism to the fantasy setting.
The only shortcoming in Rat Queens is some of the art. Lots of panels seem to have been done hastily with visible sketch marks and flat colors. Luckily, dialogue bubbles tend to take up a large portion of panels. Also, there’s a fair amount of gore. The art in Rat Queens is not for the faint of heart.
Rat Queens is hilarious tale of a group of women that can all be filed under the chaotic neutral alignment. With its lovable, sincere cast of characters Rat Queens wants you to have fun reading it.
If you like Rat Queens, I recommend starting up a Dungeons and Dragons/Pathfinder party with your friends. The Lady Killer graphic novel series and Jim Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Harley Quinn series is good for those who like Rat Queens as well.