Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: Rat Queens (2013 - 2014)

Click HERE for a free preview of Rat Queens
I have a soft spot in my heart for stories that feature a ragtag group of adventurers who manage to get themselves into a lot of trouble and have to figure out a way to save their own asses. When done right, these stories can be incredibly fun and make me want to run a few sessions where everything goes terribly wrong for the party and see how they respond.

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch takes this setup and knocks it out of the park.

This ongoing series from Image Comics stars a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire called the "Rat Queens". There's Hannah the Rockabilly Elf Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarf Warrior, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric, and Betty the Hippy Halfling Rogue.

After causing too much trouble in the city of Palisade, the Rat Queens and a handful of other adventuring parties (with names like the Four Daves and the Brother Ponies) are forced into taking assignments from the city guard so they won't be banished. However, these quests might not be what they seem and someone in Palisade might be gunning for adventurer heads.

In my opinion, Rat Queen's greatest strengths are its sense of humor and its characters. The comic favors a darker, more raunchy sense of humor and it does it well. The humor feels like something I'd hear at the gaming table, which fits the feel of the comic perfectly. Rat Queens also pokes fun at some gaming stereotypes, like the affect that adventurers would have on a settlement and how dungeons seem magically refill themselves on such a short basis. However, it isn't mean-spirited about it and is just having fun with these weird elements.

The Rat Queens themselves are also fantastic. Each member of the party feels like a character I would see at the table. We have a cleric who once belonged to a blood drinking, squid worshiping sect of some strange god, but no longer believes in that deity, an unusually happy halfling rogue who decides its better to pack candy and drugs instead of actual food, a dwarf fighter who tries her hardest to say cool catchphrases, and a foulmouthed elf mage who how has issues with her parents. Each character is unique in their own way and I love reading about them.

While I wasn't a big fan of Upchurch's art at first, it slowly started to grow on me. At times, it can be a little too sketchy and uneven, but I feel like his style captures the feel of the comic. There is a lot of energy in his work and it really shines in the action scenes. However, it might not be for everyone and it definitely took some time for me to get used to.

Rat Queens is a fun, humorous fantasy series that hits all the right notes for me. Out of all the stories I've featured so far, this comic makes me want to grab some dice and have some fun at the gaming table. If you're looking for an enjoyable fantasy series with some interesting characters and a good, dark sense of humor, I suggest giving Rat Queens a read. I highly recommend it.