Don’t get me wrong – I love the Big Two. Marvel and DC are responsible for some pretty bad-ass comic books on a very regular basis, and my pull list is never without at least one title featuring a God of Thunder, a Caped Crusader, or a Friendly Neighborhood…well, you get the idea.
But, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the number three guy: Image Comics.
In the last few years, Image has consistently impressed me with their outside-the-box titles: Chew, Saga, and just recently Lazarus have become more than just favorites – they’re my monthly obsessions. The studio keeps hitting the ball out of the park with original stories that transcend the standard superhero fare, and boldly break new ground. I believe it’s because their creators simply have more leeway; without the need to adhere to existing storylines and decades-old characters, more intimate tales can be told by a smaller creative team – and, once in a while, the results are stunning.
Rat Queens, from Image Shadowline, is one of those titles.
Issue #1 introduces us to the titular quartet of lovable hellraisers: Dee (a Human Cleric), Betty (a Smidgen Thief), Violet (a Dwarven Fighter) and Hannah (an Elven Mage). The story begins when the women are tasked with clearing goblins out of Hindman Cave as restitution for their hard-partying ways – and as we find out early, these women know how to party. They swear, experiment with drugs, talk openly about their sexual misadventures…oh, and they beat the living crap out of everyone in sight. Think Sex & the City meets Lord of the Rings.
Yes, it’s that weird.
And yes, it’s that awesome.
Artist Jon “Roc” Upchurch (Vescell) is receiving some lofty praise as the next big thing in the comic world, and the hype is not unfounded; character design, pencils, inks, colors – like Fiona Staples over on the award-winning series Saga, Roc does it all. He brings a striking, Frank Frazetta-like quality to his illustrations, along with a signature that’s all his own.
You can tell he’s having a blast with the girls on Rat Queens – they’re each expressive, edgy, and beautiful in their own, otherworldly way. Maybe best of all: Upchurch brings weight and realistic dimensions to the female form without the need to fall back on the stereotypical ‘hourglass’ figure that has become a stale cliché in comics for the last…well, forever.
Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe (Peter Panzerfaust), along with co-creator Meg Dejmal, have crafted a world where genres blend seamlessly; it’s a fantasy tale with more than just swords and sorcery as the main attraction. The pacing is crisp, the dialog is sharp, and I never felt like a single panel or line of dialog was being wasted.
But the primary strength is Wiebe’s cast of colorful characters, who each have their own distinct motives and identities. They’re each identifiable and instantly relatable, but without falling into any particular archetype. I can’t wait to see their back-stories unfold as Queens progresses.
I’m not going to get into any more specifics of the plot, because there are already some fun twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil. But suffice to say, I’m hooked.
Rat Queens is stunning, violent, darkly comedic – and more than anything, it leaves me salivating for issue #2.
Go get it.
You can find Rat Queens at comic stores everywhere on September 25th. In the meantime, head over to ImageComics.com for a free preview, and don’t forget to follow Kurtis (@kurtisjwiebe) and Roc (@JohnnyRocwell) on Twitter.
WRITTEN BY: Kurtis J. Wiebe
ART BY: Roc Upchurch
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: September 25, 2013
CBS Man Cave Daily Exclusive: a behind-the-scenes look at Roc Upchurch’s creative process – from thumbnails to the finished page –
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.
Blake previously interviewed YouTube sensation ComicBookGirl19 in She Makes Geek Chic and proved cosplay is on the rise with The 5 Hottest Trends of 2012’s Summer Fan Conventions.