A couple of weeks ago, I gave Comixology a go. In no time, I was falling fast and furious for an array of kick-ass comics with rich mythos and badass broads. Chief among these is Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens, a series that’s not only spawned a dedicated fandom of killer cosplayers, but also accolades from the Eisners and GLAAD. This colorful and crass comic had me from the opening pages that introduced its no-fucks-to-give foursome:
An ardent love letter to all things fantasy, Rat Queens is set in a Dungeons and Dragons-style world bursting with magic, monsters, and opportunities for quests and loot. But the titular adventurers aren’t dull Lawful Good types. They’re a band of smirking misfits, thirsting for gold, good times, and occasionally glory. But most of all, good times in the form of drinking, bar brawling, drugs and sex. A few panels in, you’ll get why this series is loving described as “Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids.”
Meet the Queens and the reasons we love them:
I’ve conjured a little fuck you.
The leader of the pack, Hannah is an Elven mage with incredible powers, in part thanks to her necromancer parents. Fiery, fearless and wielding the f-word with as much skill and brutality as she does her wand, she’s tough as nails, but has a soft spot for her fellow Queens, and for the dashing do-gooder Captain of the Guard, Sawyer (seen below).
Tequila, vodka and two magic mushrooms. They call it “The Betty.”
Small but mighty, Betty is a “smidgeon”, which is essentially this world’s halfling/hobbit race. She’s dual-fisted with a high dexterity and Sherlock-level detection skills. But her naiveté and penchant for magical mushrooms often trip up this delightfully dippy hippie.
My parents worship a giant flying squid. Holidays get weird.
Human cleric Dee has powerful magic in her own right, culled from her cultist culture that praises a Cthulhu-like beast of legend. Dee bailed on her tribe when doubt crept in, but “goddess enough,” she’s still a force to be reckoned with. Though not at parties. She rolls way low on social interaction, preferring the safe pages of her books to small talk and flirty menfolk.
I know my sword is designer. I use it ironically.
The brute of the group is Violet, a dwarven warrior with a wrathful temper and a lust for the surprisingly sweet Orc Dave. Like Dee, Violet has broken from the traditions of her culture to find her own way. For Vi, that meant shaving her lush red beard, though she grows it back when that rebellious act becomes an all too hip trend.
Whether they’re foiling an assassination plot, maneuvering through emotional land mines, or saving the world from suction-cupped sky beasts, the Rat Queens do it as a team. There’s plenty of sisterly snark, silliness, secrets, and even serious fights. But at the core of these comics throbs a friendship that is enviable and inspiring.
Fantasy has long been dominated by white, straight, cisgender male heroes. Rat Queens has won praise for cracking open the genre to people long cast to its sidelines, folding in heroines, villainesses, characters of color, and LGBTQA characters like Betty—who dates a female elf who looks like Ruby Rose—and Braga, a trans orc warrior. The character designs by Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Šejić, and Tess Fowler show a welcomed range in body type that is too often absent in female representation. While swooning over the vibrant art splashed across Rat Queen panels, this richness and variety speaks volumes about the value of diverse representation without ever having to say a word about it.
Flipping the fantasy trope of big-titted women falling all over impossibly brawny Conan the Barbarian types, Rat Queens spools out plenty of men drawn from the angle of (straight) female gaze. While the “Mature content” book also boasts boobs, nudity is presented here in a manner that feels more about character than creating thinly veiled wank material. However, thanks to the aforementioned diversity, there is eye candy for whatever your tastes.
Action Action Action
Both the kinds. Presented as fully rounded and flawed, the Rat Queens engage in sexual activities and cut and slash the ever-loving fuck out of foes and fiends in blood-splashed panels with wit and frenzy.
You know that useless, loudmouthed asshole who stirs the pot and makes every awkward moment worse? Fucking Gary. His fist-to-face comeuppances are a recurring joy.
Mirroring contemporary styles like Rockabilly, Bohemian, Hipster and Goth, Rat Queens gives readers plenty of opportunity to awe over outfits. It’s one of the smaller joys of the comic, sure. But I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t attempted to shop the look of my favorites queens.
To date there are 16 comics doled out in three volumes: Sass and Sorcery, The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, and Demons. While new print comics aren’t planned, Wiebe has promised to resume the adventures of the Rat Queens as a web comic. You can catch up through Comixology, where the first volume is available for free to members.
Kristy Puchko believes we should be the cosplays we want to see in the world.