Anyone in the mood for a bit of gory whimsy with sex and drugs aplenty? If so, Image Comics has you covered with Rat Queens. Following an adventuring troupe in a D&D like setting, the Rat Queens are four badass, loudmouth warrior women with a penchant for property destruction, drugs, alcohol, offensive humour and plenty of sass. The town of Palisade outsources to adventuring groups to protect their city from outside threats like bandits and goblins. Made up of the Elven spellcaster Hannah, Human atheist cleric Dee, Dwarven warrior Violet and Smidgen (think Hobbit) thief Betty, the Rat Queens are well known for getting the job done, but also literally wrecking the town during their bar crawls. So much so, in fact, that someone in the city decides to be rid of them. The next set of assignments leads each of the five adventuring parties into traps against powerful assassins. Who is behind this? Who will survive? Why is a Martini with candy and magic mushrooms called 'The Betty'? Read the first volume to find out.
Seriously, this is one of the comics that is so enjoyable I simply cannot spoil anything. The plot itself is fairly well structured with several little twists and plays upon expectation within just the first collected volume. Each of the four Rat Queens has some history that only pokes its head from time to time but does a lot to make these characters feel very complex. Each of them seems to be running or distracting themselves from something in their past and this works out in different ways for each character. Hannah may have the darkest past with Necromancer parents so it makes sense that she's the more foul mouthed and blood thirsty as she's going further out of her way to distract herself from grim reality. Dee is all sorts of cool as she explains her ability to cast divine magic without believing in the divine as "I'm goddess enough" since she just can't accept the flying squid god her parents worship as real. Violet works rather strangely and may be the most complex of the four. In terms of the wider adventures she partakes of murdering and drugs with the same gusto as her friends. That said, she cares about what good they are doing. It weighs on her that the town folk don't like them and she seems to be searching for a wider purpose, and you see why when her past catches up a bit with her. At the same time that she wants to feel like she's upholding certain values she is extremely against her own cultural heritage and it's an interesting duality. Betty appears to be the closest to normal, with no major past she seems to live totally in the moment and her liveliness helps to bind the group together. She also packs a lunch of candy and home grown drugs, not to mention having the attention span of a squirrel on Red Bull.
World building is done a la Whedon style, with everyone referring to everything as commonplace and it being up to the reader to figure it out. Since the comic doesn't stray too far from D&D this isn't too hard and while I'll readily admit I'm a big fan of this device, it can go horribly awry if not done properly. Since, however, this is not the case, we get to experience a fun world and be drawn deeper into it since we feel more like observers from within the world rather than observers who need everything explained.
Plenty of fun characters and truly funny crass humour Rat Queens is definitely one to check out if you enjoy the smarter Deadpool but wish he could go for a full R rating.