Character Reference (Comics): Rat Queens

Character Reference is a weekly spot where I provide a letter of recommendation for a series you should try, kicking off with a selection of comics. Every Thursday will have an overview of a fantastic comic book series that you might otherwise have missed, covering a range of genres, styles and characters. Enjoy!

24-nov-ratqueensAfter a couple of weeks of Marvel superheroes, this week we’re getting down and dirty with Rat Queens, a fantastic, full-blooded fantasy series with plenty of tough talking, sex, drugs and swordplay. Chock full of sass and sorcery, this series is inspired by the character archetypes and the kind of weird and wacky exploits found in the infamous role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Sound a bit niche? This series does have a cult following and will particularly appeal to lovers of fantasy who will recognise the subversion of familiar tropes, but despite their swashbuckling the central characters cope with universal issues; love troubles, clashes with authority figures and parents that worship a giant flying squid…or is that last one just me?

This is the perfect time to read the back issues of Rat Queens, as it was announced just last week that the series is returning refreshed with a new artist, Owen Gieni, in March. After some controversy surrounding the original artist and co-creator Roc Upchurch, the series is keeping the basics in this ‘soft reboot’, going back to its roots and focusing in on the fun and startling hijinks of four friends who kill monsters for money.

This is where the real strength of this series lies; the four main characters form a kickass lady squad with every one bringing a unique energy and skillset to the team. Each are well rounded, fully formed characters with their own strengths, weaknesses and backstories. Hannah the rockabilly Elven mage is the de facto leader, full of attitude; Violet is a hipster Dwarf who sometimes sports a beard but always packs a weapon; Dee the compassionate yet conflicted human cleric and Betty, the hard-drinking, flirtatious and diminutive thief. Together they’re the Rat Queens, the toughest fighting team around; lock up your men and your monsters!

Rat Queens is written with a good dose of cheeky humour, and with swearing, drugs, innuendo and monster-smashing violence, it’s definitely for mature readers who are young and fierce at heart. The art, although varied throughout the run, is always vibrant and dynamic, throwing into the heart of battle and party alike. I adore the character designs; from Hannah’s perfectly shaped eyebrows and power cleavage, Violet’s cynical lip curl and Betty’s mischievous expression to everything about the gorgeous Dee’s distinct look, every detail speaks volumes and contributes greatly to the overall characterisation of the Rat Queens.

If you love strong, flawed women and fast-paced action adventure with the added spice of magic and trolls, I recommend giving Rat Queens a try!

In Brief:

Rat Queens
Genre: Fantasy action adventure
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Šejic, Tess Fowler, Owen Gieni
Publisher: Image

Status: Three volumes released, but they’ve just announced ‘soft reboot’, so new issues due in March!
Best for: D&D and fantasy nerds, your badass girl squad

Words by Heidi Teague
Tweet Heidi @TeagueHeidi

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