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

Rat Queens by Kurtis Weibe and Roc UpchurchRat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
Kurtis Weibe (author) and Roc Upchurch (illustrator)

Published by: Image Comics on March 26, 2014
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Goodreads Summary:

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!


Let’s start this off with a little confession. There is bad news coming for every graphic novel/comic I read right now while impatiently waiting on July to come… because I’ll always measure it up to Saga #sorrynotsorry Once I have enough of these things under my belt, it probably won’t be like that; but you have to understand that Saga is the only thing I’ve read like this in a looong time.

Comics are a fairly new addition to my adult reading lists. They usually serve to keep me reading once I get into one of my infamous slumps. And, in the case of some, they tend to become my newest obsession a lot more often than the books I read. What can I say? I’m a reader who is easily bribed by pretty, detailed pictures which Rat Queens is definitely not in want of. Everything is so gorgeous, I could honestly go on and on about that aspect alone. However, this is a review. I’m expected to tell you something about the reading experience as a whole, right?

I’m doing something a bit different by starting off with the things I didn’t like first.

This could have been way more interesting, and you know it.

Ugh. I wanted to love this so much. I wanted this to be my next Saga (my fault for being obsessive, tbh). I expected to fall in love. Upon first pulling it from its box, I studied that cover and already knew I was in for some badassery unlike any I’ve ever seen before. This little band of misfits calling themselves the “Rat Queens” was diverse as diverse can be. Seriously, we’ve got an elf, a dwarf, a human (who is black #bless), and a smidgen. I was here for it.

The story, however, didn’t measure up to my expectations. Rat Queens got hella ambitious but didn’t carry anything through. By the end, the story was a very jumbled mixture of the many plot bunnies the writer is attempting to weave throughout his expansive tale. And while I am sure everything will work itself out in issues to come, it just didn’t make for a pleasurable experience now. That being said, the main plot (which was what, again?) fell flat as fuck. It’s something like this:

Troupes sent to “clean up messes” -> troll -> assassins -> betrayal (but not really because who is the character, and when did they matter?) -> trolls -> filler… filler… filler -> OMG. THERE’S A NEW “BADASS” IN TOWN AND YOU’VE MET THEM BEFORE AND WHAT ARE THEY REALLY UP TO?! -> end

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

Let’s discuss the wonderful world of Palisade

There wasn’t enough world building. All I know about our current setting is that there are different troupes who have been causing problems in the city with their pillaging and what have you in Palisade. Also, the townspeople hate them because every time you turn around, their possessions are being broken. That’s it. That’s all I know. Considering the fact that each volume contains about 5 issues, I kind of expected to know more by now. Like… I 100% could not imagine reading this piece by piece, never really getting enough information to wet my palette and connect me to the world.

Do I love these characters because they’re beautiful or are they beautiful because I love them?

I LOVED THE GIRLS. I wanted more from them, but they were all so uniquely beautiful that I found myself forgiving the story (and, subsequently, the writer) again and again for the lack of depth I started to see in the main characters.

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

After a while, the snark got repetitive and tired itself out and we were left with what? Just a couple of witty gals who seriously use any and everything as a punchline (even when they shouldn’t).

We get it.

You can kill a man troll with your bare hands. Move it along. I couldn’t really connect to them too much throughout the first half of the story, especially, and it almost felt like a big info dump in the second half where the writers remembered “hey, we should probably flesh these girls out, huh?”

At the end of the day, I just wanted them to be more rounded. But, alas, maybe this will come later? I really hope the main girls aren’t underdeveloped because it’s just a bunch of guys sitting around trying to be “hip” and “cool” with their “anti-traditional women” characters (note: I’m aware that Tess Fowler came on, but she wasn’t ). Let them be badasses AND have depth for the love of all that’s good in the world.

[/begin rant about the black girl in the troupe (AKA Dee)] HOW DARE YOU give in and make my sweet baby Dee this extremely exotic person? Couldn’t she have just been like everyone else? Of course this is the girl who has connections to a giant flying squid god (she’s atheist though… sorta) and walks around wearing all manner of skulls looking like a jazzed up voodoo princess. I was so sad. Hell, I’m still sad. [/end rant]

Alright, Morgan… what did you like?

The one thing that will probably keep me coming back for more is that Rat Queens is an interesting adaption of adventure troupe roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. Confession Time (again): I never really played the game, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of the effort. However, I had spent quite some time pouring over a few of the books and familiarizing myself with the available characters. Hell, I even created a few characters based on the concepts and gave them their own little back story (I highkey just wanted to create players and stories outside outside of the rigid and oft-confusing gaming arena). So, to a lowly noob like myself, it was fine [/wards off conflict with insane fanatics].

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

With first tastes of the series, I’m a bit needy. I need to be enticed by the author, especially when I don’t know anything about their former work. Like… Convince me to drop money for the next few issues, please. Rat Queens just didn’t do that. I’m not really losing my shit trying to get my hands on the second volume. I can wait.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Got any interesting graphic novel/comic recommendations? I’m all ears, well, eyes.

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

  1. I don’t think I’ll be reading this one (the issues you had with it would bother me too much), but my friend Ashers is hugely into D&D and graphic novels, so she probably needs this in her life. I’ll give her the heads-up. Thanks for the review! =D

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely recommend this to those more familiar with the genre (even more so for those into D&D c: ). I hope she ends up liking it if she decides to pick it up!

      Liked by 1 person

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