by Kurtis J. Wiebe (Writer), Roc Upchurch (Artist)

The Story: The battle for Palisade concludes as the mercenaries then party hard.

The Review: There are a quite a lot of changes in the industry going on these days. With many established and well-liked creators going on to create their own series at companies like Image, Dark Horse, Boom and other such places, we live in an age where creativity in the American market is booming. It is something, however, that require some sacrifices, like titles that are released in waves like Saga and Lazarus, who need time after a bunch of issues to catch up and plan ahead.

Another title that can claim to do so is Rat Queens, with this issue concluding its first arc with the next issue coming up in May. One of the very thing which makes the adventures of the Rat Queens a bit similar to the two aforementioned titles is the quality, which is actually quite high. With but a few honest-to-God pure and atypical fantasy comics out there, it’s a refreshing thing to see a title dedicated to the genre, yet not so stuck in its ways as to forget to bring innovation and quality into the mix. Still, does this conclusion brings a painful realisation that the title won’t be out for a few months, or is it a dull affair that makes the wait a bearable thing?

Unfortunately, it’s the former as this conclusion not only brings many of the title’s strength to the forefront, but also present many of the unique and decidedly charming qualities of the title in a penultimate fashion.

One of the better point, in that respect, is the entire cast. With the Rat Queens being of course the focus of the book, it’s a nice thing to see that Wiebe does not forget that this is a world that he is trying to present and build here, enriching the book with a large and surprisingly enjoyable supporting cast. The four Daves, Braga and Sawyer all have a rich personality and some good interactions with each others as well as the Rat Queens which allows for some fun moments.

Still, like said earlier, the focus is on the Rat Queens, with each of them getting quite a lot of deeper analysis. Their code of honor, their methods and their outlook for each other and on life is shown here in battle as well as during the party, allowing for their quirky and semi-dysfunctional qualities to come forth in interesting ways.

Still, even with interesting characters, the book would suffer if there wasn’t any balance in its presentation, its story and had an actual identity of its own. Thankfully, Wiebe makes this issue a very special combination of violence, character building, fun and comedy that is superbly balanced. Seamlessly going from berserk rage to touching to amusing, this issue flows very well in terms of tone and themes.

Where it might lose some people, though, is in the overly mature theme. While not a weakness per se, those easily offended by foul language, mention of sex, alcohol and a good dose of bloody violence may not feel at home with such a series and especially with this issue in some regards. It certainly isn’t the fact that it’s handled badly or anything more than it permeates the very identity of the book in close to every page. Those not minding these very things shall find quite a lot of entertainment, though.

The art of Roc Upchruch is another story, though, with some very clear strengths and some weaknesses that might make or break the issue for some. There are some very apparent rough edges to the art in this book, with some details being a bit sketchy and imprecise. However, Upchurch does manage to get over this fault of his in many ways that count, never putting down the essential details in the characters face or making it so the scenes aren’t packed with enough details so that they feel bland. Using some opaque techniques to allow for an illusion of lesser details in the backgrounds, the artist turn this weakness of his into a strength thanks to this technique. Effectively using the context of the party with the narcotics and vision blurring the readers vision in a way, this allow for an illusion of depth without boggling the issue down.

An aspect where Upchurch is decidedly very good at is with panel progression, with a fluidity between each panels and the simulation of progress and movement being aptly put on the page. In the action scene, in the party and pretty much everywhere in the book, the artist allows for a good visual pacing that allows for each scenes to get their point across without being rushed or too slow.

His colorization is also very notable. With a use of pastel colors without destroying contrasting techniques and with a good diversity despite it all, Upchurch creates a good colorful identity to the book that accentuate the one it already has further. Without hurting his lines and making sure there is enough balance between the backgrounds and the frontal elements like the characters and the violence, the colors do their job to accentuate the line work and put an effect to enhance the effects and tones of the script without being superfluous.

The Conclusion: With a very clear and fun identity and a superb balance between the interesting elements that compose this series, this issue brings a great load of entertainment and some solid artwork. In all, it’s very good.

Grade: A-

Hugo Robberts Larivière