Captions column by Drew
Lately, I’ve been going through a bit of Protagonist Fatigue. For some reason, the normal wise-cracking, don’t count him out when he’s down hero hasn’t been doing it for me. Maybe this is part of a shift in taste away from capes or at least your standard up-up-and-away superhero story, but for whatever reason this summer I decided to take a break and try to read some comics with something new to me:
A female lead.
Now, I have read many comics that include female characters, but outside of Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head with a female lead. Even the team books I’ve read tend to keep women in the minority – only a fairly recent reread of Ellis and Immonen’s NextWave proved the exception. So this summer, I set out to correct this lack of variety on my part and am happy to share the results with you.
Words: Kurtis Wiebe. Art: Roc Upchurch.
Rat Queens is an ensemble book featuring a party of female adventurers straight from the classic Dungeons and Dragons mold – a fighter, a wizard, a thief, and a priest. The setting is standard fantasy – if you’ve seen a few Lord of the Rings movies it won’t take you long to catch up. The book takes a sharp left from your standard fantasy story in its tone – it veers much closer to the potty-mouthed quips of NextWave than it does to anything Gary Gygax would have come up with. For the most part, this works. The book moves pretty quickly and I wished more time was given to the plot, but can understand the need to develop characters’ backstories. Each of the four leads has a hook I’m looking forward to reading about further – a wayward priest from her parents’ Lovecraftian faith, a thief who might not be as fly-by-night as she presents herself, a dwarf on the run from her family, and a wizard with a complicated relationship with the town guard. Wiebe describes the book as a “love letter to D&D” and it really shows. Even though the characters may take the piss out of the genre, they do so with great affection and wit. Upchurch’s art is expressive although sometimes too caricature-esque which makes telling the difference between a dwarf and a human tricky at first glance.
All in all, an entertaining introduction to a new setting and storyline. Expect to see more of the Rat Queens in the future – the next collected volume should be out in a month or two and there’s a pilot for an animated series in the works.
Bottom Line: Roll a d20. Add +1 if you enjoy Archer, +2 if you liked the Lord of the Rings movies, +5 if you know what a d20 is, and +10 if the idea of a hipster dwarf speaks to you on a visceral level. If the result is over 12, you should read this comic.
Words & Art: Bryan Lee O’Malley.
I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. Bryan Lee O’Malley made a big splash with his Scott Pilgrim series a few years back, but after the movie based on his work became a mere cult-hit rather than a hit-hit, he seemed to fade away. Turns out he was just working on Seconds. Rather than focus on slackers like Pilgrim, Seconds is about a chef named Katie and her desire to create a perfect life for herself. Towards that end she’s worked and scrimped and saved for years, but still her ideal perfect world eludes her.
Until she discovers some strange mushrooms that allow her to re-do some of the choices she’s made in life.
The art style is the O’Malley-ist thing that’s ever O’Malley’d since the last time he went O’Malley-ing, that sweet, large headed almost cartoony style that seems to infect a lot of recent artists and animation (Kate Beaton, Adventure Time, Abby Howard, Gravity Falls, etc). This isn’t a bad thing, just something that I can only take in limited doses. While a sort of video game 8-bit aesthetic informed much of Scott Pilgrim, that’s pretty much all gone here – although there is a sort of final ‘boss battle’ at the story’s climax.
All in all, the book is rewarding enough to read more than once in order to pick out some extra details. I know I should put in the obvious pun (something something Seconds something helping something) but why would I?
Bottom Line: Must read.