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Monday, April 27, 2015

Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery. Kurtis J. Eiebe (Writer), Roc Upchurch (Art), Ed Brisson (Letters), Image Comics (2014)

This is a very engaging, entertaining and frequently very funny update of the sword and sorcery genre. The Rat Queens are a gang of female mercenaries based in the city of Palisades, they and other assorted gangs are causing considerable problems due to brawling in the city. They are all given tasks by the mayor to get them out of the city, the tasks turn out to be rather different than expected. The Rat Queens return to the city to discover who had set them up and the story unrolls wonderfully from there right down to the unexpected and nicely dark hook for the next story arc.
Kurtis J. Eiebe has captured one of the essentials for a sword & sorcery story, the book fizzles with energy, the entire cast are all loud and vital, each demanding and rewarding a slice of the reader’s attention. The Rat Queens themselves are everything they should be, loving a fight, deeply loyal to each other and trouble for everyone else. They jump off the page with fully formed characters and distinctive approaches to the problems of killing assassins or trolls. They are warrior women who breeze past all the clich├ęs that stand in their way to capture the essence of sword and sorcery and make it their own. They do so in a vividly realised context with a supporting cast who push forward as much as they can, the balance between them all is a joy to behold.
Roc Upchurch’s art is simply stunning, an astonishing combination of very strong character work and very clever panel lays outs that drive and draw out the nuances of the story. The cast move and interact with their context very naturally, the action is fierce and wildly over the top, but never stupid. It is catches just the degree of exaggeration that the genre requires to allow the cast be the larger-than-life characters that they are. Friendship is critical to the story and the expressive art brings it out without ever forcing the issue.
One of the great strengths of the book is Ed Brisson’s lettering and sound effects, this is a really loud book, the action is big and loud and the lettering brings it up to the readers notice without ever intruding. The quieter moments are delivered with the same thoughtful care.This is a great fun book from very talented creators who know what they are doing and doing it very well.

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