Rat Queens #8: Review

Imagine Charlie’s Angels, but without a patriarch to boss the girls around. Now make those girls mythical creatures with a penchant for violence and this what you’d get: The Rat Queens. And issue #8 proves that this title might have one more thing going for it, too — depth.

Here’s the official word from Image:

“THE FAR REACHING TENTACLES OF N’RYGOTH,” PART THREE If your enemy is just too damn strong, well…when you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And then from the safety of their trust, that’s when you kill ‘em with a good rusty blade to the spine. Rat Queens style.

Rat Queens, by its very nature, is a mostly playful meditation on the male dominated team book. After all, what RatQueens_08-1 (1)makes the Queens unique is not that they’re a pack of hardcore mercenaries prone to violence and partying (we’ve definitely seen that before), but that they do all this while being female. The last seven issues of Kurtis J. Wiebe’s series has played this up to great effect — many of the jokes, twists, and plot reveals are effective because they’ve played on our gender expectations (men have played the damsels in distress,  the Queens have played the “bad boys” and it’s all been great fun). With issue #8, however, Wiebe takes this one step further. Here, we follow Violet’s return home where she must literally play model to an annual celebration that features both fighting and a fashion show.

The fact that Violet is more competent on the battlefield than the catwalk is where this issues humor comes in, but the intensity of Wiebe’s focus on this tension is what makes this book start to feel like an honest-to-God meditation on gender. Violet, after all, comes from a breed of people where women grow beards, and in order to “fit in” back home she needs to let her facial hair grow out. After Violet’s visit back home degrades into an epic fail, she (spolier alert) grabs a pair of scissors and reverts back to the girl we’ve know and loved. Wiebe’s message here seems clear: Violet’s clean-shaved self when she’s with the Queens might be an embrace of femininity as we know it, but it’s an absolute rejection of gender norms for her. While much of the action of this book follows Violet — and seems oddly removed from the arc of last issue — we do get a quick pivot back to the central plot at the end.

And yes, I want to read more.

Roc Upchurch’s style, again, fits this title perfectly. Upchurch is especially gifted at facial expressions, and is able to easily capture the balance of sass and humor that’s essential for bringing Violet to life. Best yet, Violet is not sexualized in any way; Upchurch spends considerable energy focusing on sight gags, posture and battle poses. His style is fluid and beautiful, and a joy to read.

Go grab this thing today.


+ Great Art and Story + And Some Gender Deconstruction, Too

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