In the first volume of Rat Queens, we met Betty, Dee, Hannah, and Violet, who are . . . well, the Rat Queens. We sympathized with their financial woes, dating missteps, and on-the-job frustrations. We cleaned up after their bar fights, battled assassins and trolls, and magically treated their limb-severing, mortal wounds. As you do.
In the second volume of Rat Queens, collecting Chapters Six through Ten, we take on a Buffy-level apocalypse, courtesy of Dee’s N’Rygoth religion, all while delving deeper into several of the characters’ backstories. We dip just far enough into these backstories to realize that every single one of the characters in this series is a well spring of potential story arcs. Wiebe isn’t going to be running out of material any time soon.
In a cast that is as well rounded as it can be, it’s a bit difficult to cull out any clear favorites. Each of our Rat Queens gets multiple show-stealing moments over the course of the story. I’m going to confess to an irrational love for Betty, the mushroom-popping, candy-hoarding, dagger-wielding smidgen, even though (because?) I’m fully aware that behind her “so cute you have to pinch them” cheeks, she’s a crafty, little warrior who could stab out my eyes in a heartbeat. And, she fits in a backpack . . . adorable! At the end of the day, though, I’d be willing to sit down in a room with any of the Rat Queens and talk about our favorite cocktails for hours on end.
Rat Queens is built on strong female characters, eye-popping violence, strong dialogue, and eviscerating humor. These women are sexy, silly, strong, stubborn, weak, heroic, self-serving . . . and the muddled list goes on and on. Most importantly, for all their special abilities, they are down-to-earth real. Rat Queens skewers character and plot tropes alike and does so in an unapologetic, “see what we just did” way.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the emphasis on the female means we get lackluster, one-dimensional male characters. On the contrary, Wiebe manages to make the side characters, in both present-day action and flashbacks, memorable and important. Character interactions are complicated and never end up quite where you predict they will. Also, Orc Dave, with the birds in his beard, is just one of my favorite things ever. There are birds in his beard!!
An important element in all this strong, character-building writing is the level of violence we encounter. This is bone-crunching, blood-splattering, head-severing, Game of Thrones-worthy mayhem that is wonderfully depicted by the art team. In every scene, the violence reinforces the strength and determination of all characters (female and male, again no distinction). It also reminds us along with all the humor, snarky dialogue, and witty comebacks, the stakes in this story are very real. And, very bloody.
So, I’ve got myself a proper addiction to Rat Queens going on. All I need now is the origin story behind the often used expletive, “Bilford Bogin!”