by Kurtis J. Wiebe (Writer), Roc Upchruch (Artist)
The Story: With the mystery of who is trying to kill the mercenary groups solved, I suppose it is about time for a horde or orcs to attack the town.
The Review: Diversity is awesome. While comics are generally associated, in a rather general manner, with super heroes, most aficionados do know that in this day and age, we are lucky to have comics covering close to every genre. Horror, western, supernatural, mystery and a plethora of others are all represented, perhaps not in an equal manner, but are available on the market nonetheless.
Having a certain fondness of fantasy, with all the tropes connected with the genre (elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons, magic and what-have-you), it’s always nice to see a title delve in what readers know unapologetically. Still, any title needs its own identity, which is why it’s just so refreshing to see a title like Rat Queens on the stand. Full of humor, flawed leads and a willingness to play with the tropes without any restraints, it is a title that is unabashedly fun to read.
Part of this, of course, is due to the characters themselves, with each of them possessing a distinct voice without resorting too much into stereotypes. While Betty may seem like an airhead, she is much more capable than she seems to be, like every others. While Wiebe may seems to purposefully use archetypes of characters and humorous types, there is always a bit more than what is on the surface, with a lot of characters getting rather easy to like, even some of the secondary characters like Braga or Sawyer gets infinitely more interesting in this issue, which bodes well for the future of this series.
The humor is certainly another factor at work here, with a certain dedication to it that is rather amusing to see. The general display of hyper-violence and the normalization of its effects by the characters, the profanity, the general silliness and multiple other factors are at work here to render this book immensely entertaining. Put in some rather memorable one-liners in there and it results in a fun book indeed.
What might perhaps throw some off to the general quality of the book would be the fact that there is a much bigger emphasis on action in this issue, which kills the momentum of what the title does so well generally. There are multiple pages completely dedicated to the group and other characters fighting orcs, which results in some well-made action, yet dispense of the rest unfortunately. It crawls the story to a halt and puts the interaction between characters away for a while in exchange of a lot of rather brutal moments. It is a trade that not all readers might enjoy, despite how entertaining the violence on display is.
Something that might not be as strong in this issue is the art of Roc Upchurch, with a some changes in quality in the book that might be a bit upsetting. The first part of the book shows the very same cartoonish, yet grim approach to characters and the setting, pushing the design forth with a certain energy that serves the book well. When Upchurch focus on the characters, he is able to convey very well the emotions through each characters and their interactions together. The diversity of expressions is rather great to see when the panels focus on the visage of the characters, allowing Upchurch to participate fully to the silliness himself.
The panelling is also rather great in itself, with an energy and a willingness to be chaotic in order to push through the tone of each scenes without any problem. The fluidity of the tale, combined with the panel progression, is rather good as to allow the motions to have the impact they deserve and need, which is fully shown in the big action scene near the end of the book.
Where the art falters a bit, though, is in the action scene itself, which unfortunately shows some of the weaknesses of Upchurch. When the panels do not focus on certain elements or simply push forth too many elements at once with varying depths, there is a great inconsistency in terms of details and precision. The faces are lost, the figures become sketchy, the backgrounds an after-thought and so forth. Most of the strengths of Upchurch are unfortunately absent in that big scene, which does not amount to something particularly satisfying visually.
Still, despite that, Upchurch regains some points when it comes to his approach with the colorization. Pushing forth the grim tone of medieval fantasy with the colors, the dullness of several elements work well with the low amount of diversity the characters add to the book, which is also working well with a certain color brought immensely in the book: the red of blood. Allowing blood and a different colorization for some backgrounds, Upchurch give a certain contrast to the panels that needs it the most, making the panels with high action that much easier to spot in the book. With a certain uniformity in the book, the colors allows for the characters to shine, which is something the book is willing to do usually.
The Conclusion: Giving humor, action and plenty of fun stuff to follow, this is a great fantasy book. While there may be some problems with the action scenes in terms of pacing and the art, the rest of the book makes up for it in terms of entertainment, resulting in not the best issue, but a fun on nonetheless.
Hugo Robberts Larivière