Sex and the City Meets D&D: A Review of Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery (2014)
Written By: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art By: Roc Upchurch
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 128 (Trade Paperback)
Publisher: Image Comics

Why I Chose This: A friend handed this to me a few years ago and said “you have to read this.” I did and I loved it, but I don’t think the second volume had come out yet so I forgot about it for a while. The first volume combines issues 1-5, and there are several volumes out now for the other 15 issues, so I’d like to start over from the beginning and read them all.

The Premise:

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!

Spoiler Free!


Discussion: I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m pretty new to comic books and graphic novels. I’m an old hand at manga, but I’ve only read maybe three graphic novels in my life. I tried Neil Gaiman’s Sandman but just never really got into it. And I’m currently reading Monstress, which is gorgeous and dark. But Rat Queens is something else entirely. Is irreverent-badass-girl-power-fantasy a normal genre for comic books, and if so, where can I find more of it?

Rat Queens is like if the girls from Sex and the City got together every week to drink and play Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, it reminded me a lot of a standing date I have with some girl friends on Guild Wars 2 every Monday. With a hipster dwarf who only drinks wine, an atheist cleric, a hippy thief, and an elven mage with a bad attitude, Rat Queens embraces familiar fantasy tropes without taking itself too seriously. These women know how to fight, but they also know how to set up a joke. I love female characters that can be badass without losing their sense of humor.

Along with that, it’s very refreshing to see a group of women representing all different shapes, sizes, and colors. There are no standards of beauty here. Just women who are confident and sexy and free to rock realistic and affirming relationships with each other. I know, right? Four girls who can actually get along and support one another despite their differences? Shocking.

There were so many things I loved about this volume, but I think my favorite is Violet, the dwarf fighter who can kick butt and be the Rat Queens’ moral compass at the same time. Not that each of the other Queens don’t have a ton of nuance, it’s just that I’m partial to redheads (although Dee sitting in the corner saying, “This is my party. This book. The book is good. It asks no questions. The book lets me engage it on my terms” almost made me change my mind).

I think a big draw for graphic novels — at least for me — has to be the artwork. I loved the artistry of Rat Queens. The women were beautiful and expressive and the colors weren’t oppressive or distracting. Although there were places where I felt like the details were really lacking, usually big ensemble panels with lots of people and scenery. Maybe that’s a stylistic choice I’m just not familiar with, but it was kind disappointing when the previous panel was gorgeous. I know Rat Queens ended up with a lot of different artists after some problems with Upchurch, so we’ll see if that gets better or worse.

And the other caveat: this is rated M. Like really, really M. Most of the time it’s part of its charm, but I did feel like it was kind of in your face about its mature content when it didn’t necessarily have to be.

In Conclusion: I’m kind of in love with this story and these women. We got some glimpses into the backstory for each of them in this volume, and I’m really looking forward to fleshing out their characters and traveling with them some more. I got the next three volumes for Christmas so excuse me while I disappear for a few days.

3 Comments

  • Shara White January 3, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    May I recommend Lumberjanes if you’re looking for more comics featuring a bunch of girls/women? It’s cute and a lot of fun!

    Reply
    • kendrame January 3, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      I keep hearing about that one, I’ll check it out.

      Reply
  • Weasel of Doom January 3, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    “Saga” is made of awesome, too!

    Reply

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