Review: Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe & Roc Upchurch


Published: March 2014 by Image Comics
Format reviewed: Paperback, 128 pages
Series: Rat Queens #1
Genres: Graphic novel, fantasy
Source: Borrowed from the library
Available: Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ ComiXology ~ Dymocks

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!

I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I am a tabletop RPG geek. I’ve been playing for about 15 years and it is only in the last year or two that I’ve not been the only female player at the table. So it was refreshing to see an all-female adventuring group. An all-female, ass-kicking adventuring group.

The Rat Queens are one of several adventuring bands that make their home in the village of Palisade. The adventurers keep the villagers safe… at least from the monsters. Their frequent, drunken revels and short tempers have caused a significant amount of trouble and property damage. The captain of the guard, Sawyer, has gone a little easier on them than he should have, perhaps on account of his ill-advised relationship with one of the Rat Queens, Hannah. However, after yet another night in jail, the adventuring bands are offered a choice: accept a mission from the village council or remain in jail. A pretty easy choice for the adventuring parties, especially since the missions are also pretty easy.

A little too easy.

The gamer in me found many moments of recognition in this comic: the parties that get out of hand, the mission that doesn’t quite go to plan, the attempts (both failed and successful) at quippy one-liners and the fighting tactics. Betty’s Holmesian investigation of the merchant guild and subsequent exit made me smile.

The Rat Queens’ loyalty to each other was also pitch-perfect. They might squabble amongst themselves (especially when Betty packs only candy and drugs as adventuring rations for the group), but they have each other’s back. Sometimes that means jumping into a fray and sometimes that means giving someone else space. When Violet’s twin brother comes to pressure her to return home, the other Rat Queens recognise that she is handling the situation herself but are ready to jump in, should she give the word. It was awesome to see that sort of respect.

The diversity in Rat Queens was also pretty awesome. There are important characters with a variety of skin colours–and I don’t just mean green (looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy movie). Even leaving aside Rat Queen Dee, Sawyer, an African-American, is both the captain of the guard and the hottest guy in town. Betty’s crush is an Asian woman.

I loved that we learn a little of each Rat Queen’s background. A couple of these backstories have already fed into the main plot and I’m looking forward to seeing that built upon as we get to better know the Rat Queens.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I find myself drawing comparisons with Saga. There’s less complexity to Rat Queens, fewer factions and layers of intrigue (so far, at least). However, I also feel like that gave me more time with the characters.

On the whole, I found it a lot of fun and, as a gamer, it was right up my alley. I’ll definitely be checking out the next volume from the library.

2 thoughts on “Review: Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe & Roc Upchurch”

  1. I’m so glad you liked this one! I read it a few months ago and really enjoyed it. The diversity is so fantastic, and like you mentioned re: Saga, I felt like I got to know these characters better, which I always appreciate.

    1. It was a blast! I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the second volume. Unfortunately, the library has a bit of a queue.

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