Monday, January 5, 2015

Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery

Rat Queens is a comic book series about a band of four rowdy and brazen women looking for adventure and a good time. They are Hannah, an elf mage who is into rockabilly, Violet, a hipster dwarf, Dee the human cleric, and Betty the hippy halfling thief.
The Rat Queens live in a fantasy land inspired by Dungeons and Dragons-type sensibilities and characters. In the town of Palisade where they live is plagued by boisterous mercenaries who get hopped up on drugs and alcohol frequently. These factors, plus their overall disregard for authority and desire to get into scraps lands them in jail. The plot set-up here is that in order to repay their debt to society, the Rat Queens (along with other bands of adventurers who are in similar predicaments) have to fulfill certain quests or complete specific tasks. Where the intrigue comes in is that all of these requirements are pretense to some other sinister intentions.

As you can see from the excerpt above, the humor comes mostly from two areas: witty repartee and very expressive drawings. Also, the language and situations are frequently bawdy and salty. I think that the plot is clever, though I felt it was a bit slight until the end of this volume. The artwork is consistently excellent, making characters into larger than life personalities and adding much energy to the proceedings.

This book collects issues #1-5 of the comic book series. It was written by Kurtis J Wiebe and drawn by Roc Upchurch. Wiebe has been working on comics since 2009 and is known for this series and Peter Panzerfaust, a reimagining of Peter Pan in World War II. Upchurch is also known for drawing the series Vescell. The duo was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2014, but Upchurch has since left the series because of a domestic abuse charge.

The series has been very well received by the public and is reportedly being adapted into a cartoon. The reviews I read about this book were mostly positive. Robert Tutton wrote, "Sass and Sorcery bounces seamlessly from gore to humor, sprawling action to small personal moments — sometimes simultaneously, and that’s what makes the whole thing work so well." Publishers Weekly commented, "Possessed of very different body types, personalities, and idiosyncrasies, and not afraid to share exactly what they’re feeling, the Rat Queens are refreshing characters whose story will leave readers thirsty for more." Don Ventura was more down on the book, explaining that he felt very little for the cast because "their personal stories all feel tacked on as more of an afterthought, resulting in book that isn’t particularly compelling."

Sass & Sorcery was published by Image Comics, who have a preview and more here. The series is on-going and is currently on issue #8.

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