Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rat Queens: Volume One: Sass and Sorcery

When it comes to comics, the field is dominated by super hero titles. At least in America. The good news though, is that there are a lot of independent publishers, well, how about the non-BIG TWO (Marvel and DC) that dip their toe into other waters quite often.

Among those publications, I've heard good things about a fantasy comic called Rat Queens. Seeing that Amazon had the first volume, Sass and Sorcery that collects issues 1-5 with some bonus material for $6.38 (almost 40% off!). Looking over my edition, it must be doing okay because this is a second printing. Good for Image.  I added that to a recent order of some Pathfinder gaming material.

It does not disappoint. It's like the authors are long term Dungeons and Dragons players.

We have the following characters:

Betty: A smidgen (Halfling/hobbit) rogue
Dee: Cleric of a giant flying squid.
Hannah: Elf magic user.
Violet: Dwarf fighter.

The action takes place in a city that houses a fair number of mercenary groups that don't necessarily get along. The story starts with a bar brawl that's broken out into the streets of the city Palisade, getting the five 'gangs' arrested: Rat Queens, Peaches, Four Daves, Brother Ponies, and Obsidian Darkness. Their penance is various low key missions that the city doesn't want to expend its own forces on ranging from clearing out goblins to 'clean the shitters at the winding pass barracks.'

Oh, and there's swearing. Adult language! For the most part it comes off as adults speaking which is well done. There's also a lot of 'slice of life' bits that fit into the overall story but I suspect in more standard comics would've been cut.

The story includes a few 'random' battles and an overarching theme that's to be continued as the readers are introduced to various individuals from the different groups. By not having the book focus entirely on the heroes, the Rat Queens, the author allows the setting to be large enough to throw multiple plot hooks into the air that can be continued one at a time until they become the main stories.

For anyone who role plays games like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons, it's almost like a quick how to manual.

Kurtis J. Wiebe is the author here and he does a nice job of handling the characters like you'd suspect such characters would act. The interesting thing to me, is if you changed all of the female characters to men, you wouldn't have to change that much dialog or well, anything else.

That's great because to me, it means the author focused on making the characters interesting as opposed to making them 'women' if you will. Maybe that didn't come out right, this being the internet and all, but I'll take strong characters over characters put up in a specific gender role any day of the week.

Roc Upchurch, whose Deviant Art page is here, does the art including the covers and since there is no colorist listed, I have to think he does that as well. Great job all around. If you like the cover for example, you'll enjoy the interior art. The interesting thing to me, is that Roc isn't afraid of showing the characters taking a beating. There is horrific violence inflicted on them, but he doesn't flinch from showing it.

Mind you the long term ramifications of such violence are minimized as there is magical healing about but to show it in the first place? Usually violence against women is minimized despite all of the 'women in the refrigerator' we see in super hero comics.

I hope that after the graphic novel collection for volume two comes out the price will go down a little. Compared to volume one's low price it's almost double. Ah, the internet spoils me with its variety in shopping terms.

If there are any Pathfinder gurus out there, you should try to license this comic out. The art is already there and a quick book of NPC's and quick maps is always a welcome addition to the game.

For fantasy comic fans and comic fans, this is a solid volume and very affordable with some great art and a story that wraps up the main plot while continuing to advance the story of the characters.

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