Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Comics Wednesday: Rat Queens (Image)

A Medieval wall-surrounded city with a tavern populated by humans, elves, dwarves, ogres, and "smidgens." Groups of adventurers that compete against each other for prestige and gold while they protect the town from goblins, the restless dead, and other nasties. Fighters. Clerics. Magic-Users. Thieves. Armies of trolls and secret darkly-clad assassins and magic and female dwarves with beards.

Hopefully even if you don't read comics, you at least saw that little list above and it's piqued your interest. This is, by far, the best "D&D" comic I've ever read (but of course it's not a licensed comic).

Read below for more.

Obligatory Preface
Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from pre-school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers.

Today's comic is Rat Queens, a relatively new book (issue #5 comes out today).

What's It About?
This is a fantasy adventure comedy about the Rat Queens, an all-female group of adventurers in the fantasy city of Palisades. The group consists of four characters: Betty, the "smidgen" (halfling) thief, Hannah the elf magic-user, Dee the human cleric, and Violet the dwarf fighter. The Rat Queens are known for getting into fights, carousing, and in general causing a lot of trouble in Palisades while they compete with fellow adventuring groups (each of which has exactly four members) such as the Four Daves, Brother Ponies (all of whom have pony-tails, naturally), Peaches, and the Obsidian Darkness (four pasty-white dark elves). And to be clear, the Rat Queens generally come out on top when it comes to drinking, brawling, and general hell-raising.

The creators really know their stuff and clearly at least one if not both of them are current or past gamers. They really draw on some deep fantasy gaming references, including the aforementioned "do female dwarves have beards," which if you're a relatively new gamer you might not know about. But, trust me, “Back in the Day”™ that was a "thing." There were entire articles written about it in The Dragon magazine. 

Who's on the Creative Team?
Kurtis J. Wiebe is the writer. He's relatively new - the earliest title I can see written by him dates back to 2009. He's written some critically acclaimed comics such as Green Wake and the Intrepids. Currently in addition to Rat Queens, he's also writing Peter Panzerfaust, which is described as "Red Dawn meets Peter Pan." It's the story of a "plucky" American boy, Peter, who rallies a bunch of French orphans to survive in Nazi-occupied France. It's good enough that it's recently been turned into a TV show by the BBC. 

Wiebe's command of dialogue is part of what makes this series so much fun. It's not "correct" in terms of the period that it's trying to portray, but I never let that bother me. This is fantasy, and it's a comic, and it's meant to be a fun, goofy comedy. This isn't Song of Ice and Fire. It's more like National Lampoon's Black Company by Glen Cook. There's violence, swearing, drinking, drug-use, and sex, but also some of the funniest scenes I've ever seen, in any medium. It's a perfect combination of gamer knowledge about things that never make sense (especially in some old-school adventures) and off-color humor that may sound juvenile at first glance but is actually deftly used for world-building purposes. 

Dee: "How is it that Hindman cave is already infested by goblins again? We just cleaned that place out last month."

Hannah: "Guess we didn't get 'em all. You know goblins. They breed like smidgens. No offense, Betty."

Betty: "So true. We like pushing things out of our bodies as much as we like putting things in 'em!"

Another scene involves Hannah the elf magic-user, who ends up having to talk to her mother via a magic relic that acts as a cell-phone. Hannah clearly doesn't have a great relationship with her parents. "Tell Father I'm in a serious relationship with a half-orc and we're ring shopping." After the magic ends, she quips to her fellow adventurers, "That'll make him **** his pantaloons." (The comic doesn't block out the swear words, but I'm trying to keep a somewhat family-friendly site here. And yes I know there was a crude joke up above but it didn't involve swearing).

John "Roc" Upchurch provides all of the art, coloring and inking his own pencil work. I'm not super familiar with his earlier work, but his work on Rat Queens is spectacular. Upchurch is required to create the look of all the different fantasy creatures in the series, and each of the four main characters belongs to a different species. That's a tall order, as he's required to make the features of Hannah the elf look different than just "a human with pointy ears." All his characters are distinctive and their personality shines through from their facial expressions and body language. His fight scenes are also excellently done - there's a sense of energy to the fights, and his layouts help us focus on just the important parts, even in massive battles involving dozens of characters, such as happened toward the end of issue #4.

It's clear that these two guys are having a blast putting this book out, and that's something I think has been missing in a lot of comics I've read over the past few years. Comics just got too "serious" and while I do think there's a place for serious stories in comics, I don't think they all have to be like that. Rat Queens is an excellent example of a well-crafted story that just happens to also be hilarious. 

Who Will Like It?
If you've either: Played D&D or another fantasy RPG, like comics, like fantasy fiction, like comedies, like my blog, or basically if you're just a cool person who like fun things, then you'll love this comic. Trust me. It's a bit under the radar right now since the creators aren't as well-known as some of the "big guns" now, but I see this as a turning point for them. It's got a really rabid fan-base already. 

Any Good Ideas for My Role-Playing Games?
Uh... hopefully I don't need to go too much into that after my explanations above. Yes, it's full of humor, historically inaccurate language (which, again, doesn't bother me since this isn't a history book), and such. But, at its core, it is a fantasy story about a group of adventurers. There's magic, mystery, monsters, and other "m" words. But really, there's a ton of stuff you can steal from this, like the governmental structure of the city of Palisades, to how the captain of the city guard assigns the various competing groups of adventurers to specific tasks ("clean out the goblin caves" or "deal with the restless dead at the cemetery" or even "clean the [outhouses]"), and more.

Is It Good for Kids?
As you can tell from above, most certainly not. It's not rated from what I can tell, but it's definitely for a more mature audience. What that means in respect to an age is more of a personal choice for you to decide for yourself once you read it.

  • Format: Monthly 28-page full-color series
  • Where To Buy: As always, try to buy it at your local comic shop. You can find one by visiting the Comic Shop Locator. If you don't have one, try a bookstore, or you can buy the digital version to read on your PC, tablet, or smartphone by going to Comixology. That link takes you to the Rat Queens page, where you can find links to buy all five issues that have come out so far. Issue #5 came out today.
  • Price: $3.50 per issue.
  • Rated: (Unrated)
  • More Information: The official Image Comics page for Rat Queens

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "I Guess You're Right" by the Posies

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