The town council of Palisade is at its wits’ end when the Rat Queens cause another ruckus and, to make that clear, they elect to send them on a mundane quest as punishment. However, when their routine goblin cleansing goes awry, Hannah, Better, Dee and Violet find themselves on a new, more exciting adventure. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch’s “Rat Queens” #1 bursts out of the gate with well paced action, quirky humor and diverse character design.
Wiebe gives the book a “World of Warcraft” type spin by creating a world that balances romanticized medievalism with modern speech and mannerisms. In doing so, he creates relatable characters despite the strange world and bizarre circumstances, incorporating conversations similar to those you might have with your friends. Violet’s dialogue is especially effective in these instances, as Wiebe uses her character to turn medieval cliches. He also uses this platform to his advantage through his clever machinations, like an enchanted stone that acts like a cell phone and quests that are delegated as discipline. Wiebe’s creativity in linking the past to the present truly makes a difference, giving the book a familiar and fun tone while effectively building a distinct world.
Though the issue has its fair share of well-executed humor, the jokes do feel a little forced at times. Betty, in particular, is the culprit for most of these jokes. Most of her dialogue revolves around her sexuality and seems designed for the shock value, which doesn’t hold up upon a second read-through. That isn’t to say that all of the jokes at Betty’s expense — like packing mushrooms and candy for dinner and her fight with her girlfriend — are entirely off-kilter; she gets some great moments, especially in her interactions with the other characters, but these instances crop up organically through her situation.
Roc Upchurch’s fantastic character design wonderfully enhances Wiebe’s world building. All of the characters — protagonist, background and otherwise — feel distinct; their personalities radiate through their stances, expressions, and wardrobe. The main cast is wonderfully diverse, displaying a great variety of body type and skin tone, which is further emphasized through the fact that each character represents her own fantasy-based species. Upchurch’s work with action makes the issue a real page-turner. During the final fight scene, each of the girl’s movements bleeds from one panel into the next, creating a fluidity that moves the story along quickly. What’s more, each character has her own distinct fighting technique, further emphasizing their character development. This, in addition to his dazzling renditions of Hannah’s spells, makes the issue pop with energy and vibrant color.
“Rat Queens” #1 is unadulterated, unapologetic fun. Weibe holds nothing back through his situational humor and his ability to turn cliches on their heads, while Upchurch’s style compliments Weibe’s writing to create an overall whimsical issue. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch have the start of something truly wonderful in “Rat Queens.”