Review: “Rat Queens, Vol. 01: Sass and Sorcery”

Upchurch fills his panels with wonderful images, and his character work is sensational.

Upchurch fills his panels with wonderful images, and his character work is sensational.

Perhaps if writer Kurtis J. Weibe had set forth as much attention to character as he does to debauchery, the first volume of “Rat Queens”, titled “Sass and Sorcery”, could have been something significantly more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, you’re left feeling very little for the cast of Weibe’s twisted take on sword and sorcery tales. The characters are bawdy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but their personal stories all feel tacked on as more of an afterthought, resulting in book that isn’t particularly compelling from any vantage point. This opening arc to this ongoing contains a mystery that struggles to be interesting as more focus is committed to demonstrating the lack of refinement of each of the leads.

The Rat Queens are a group of female warriors whose priorities are consuming alcohol, consuming drugs, sparring with anybody or anything, and having sex; not in this order and not necessarily one at a time. Betty, Hannah, Dee, and Violet are the four Rat Queens, each possessing varying levels of powers and abilities.

“Sass and Sorcery” opens with the Rat Queens, and other bands of warriors for hire, being ordered by the town guard, Sawyer Silver, to clean up some local problematic ogres, goblins, and the like. Some of the assassins are slaughtered, leaving the Rat Queens questioning who would want them dead. This brings the troupe back to Palisade looking for answers; Palisade is a quiet town that doesn’t care for the Rat Queens and their destructive nature.

Betty has a burgeoning romance with a young woman named Faeyri, Dee feels the need to defend her lack of faith, Violet’s relationship with her brother is on the skids, and Hannah and the Sawyer might be heading toward a more romantic relationship. These are the “B” stories featured in the first volume of “Rat Queens” and they all come off as obligatory. On the final panel a new subplot is revealed and, considering the lack of attention to the characters involved, there was little desire to read any further.

Artist Roc Upchurch creates a rich fantasy world in “Rat Queens”. His character work is sensational; he breathes life into his expressive and gorgeous cast of heroes, villains, and creatures. Upchurch is terrific at costume design; there must be at least two dozen characters, mostly minor, all with their own unique features and costumes. Upchurch has a great time with the violence in “Rat Queens (a fair amount of blood is spilled), gleefully presenting vivisections and compound fractures up close. For all of the problems with this opening volume, there is nothing but praise to express of Upchurch’s fantastic illustrations and coloring.

It isn’t that “Rat Queens” isn’t funny, because quite often it can be. However, Weibe’s humor is too often unrestrained and the story ends up taking a backseat to the author’s desire for raunch.

Grade: C

“Rat Queens, Vol. 01: Sass and Sorcery”
Written by: Kurtis J. Weibe
Art: Roc Upchurch
Letters: Ed Brisson
Publisher: Image Comics
Original Publication Date: September 2013
Pages: 130 pages

You can find this book at one of the following recommended retailers:

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