Posts Tagged ‘misfits’

The way I figure it, Kurtis J. Wiebe could write a whole issue of Rat Queens where the eponymous team reads from the phone book and it’d hilarious and heart-breaking. Tess Fowler, in turn, would find a way to make those actions dynamic and entertaining while Tamra Bonvillain would make it a colorful treat for the eyes. That’s my way of saying hannahthat even the most seemingly boring tasks become poignant and epic when performed by these fantastically foul-mouthed women.

With Rat Queens #13, the slow march towards some kind of confrontation becomes clear. Picking up where we left off: the Queens appeared to be done for in the snowy mountains outside Hannah’s old stomping grounds of Mage University, but it turns out they’re alive and well. Saved by the University, the Queens are given permission to explore the grounds and facilities while Hannah meets with one of her old professors to talk magic and academic upheaval. I’m an especially big fan of this aspect of Mage U because it continues to show just how versatile and inclusive the world of Rat Queens can be when its creative team seamlessly incorporates sci-fi elements like inter-dimensional travel into a mostly high fantasy setting. Plus the professor reminds me of Dr. Manhattan only with more snark. Anyway, Dee spends her time in the massive library looking for a way to bring down N’Rygoth while Violet looks after Betty. Of course, any time with Betty ultimately results in questionable decision-making, but one can’t deny the buddy comedy stylings that emerge when the free-spirited Smidgen goes up against any other personality.

The bulk of the issue, however, is devoted to the building tension surrounding Hannah’s father, Gerard’s, revolt against the University’s Council of Nine and his imprisonment in an unreachable dimension. Once again, the foundations for familial tension in the Vizari household were laid down from the beginning of Rat Queens but now it seems that Hannah, her parents, and the University may be part of something far more nefarious. The demon-baby chide takes on a very different meaning when Mage U’s faculty repeatedly refer to Hannah as Gerard’s Mage U“stepdaughter”, though the two are quick to correct them that he is her father and nothing else. Hannah’s mother, Mina, reaffirms this as well during a tearful reunion with her daughter.

Like Dee, Violet, and Braga, Kurtis Wiebe is taking us on another journey with Hannah to explore how her home life and background led her to the Rat Queens. Her questionable parentage and subsequent ostracization from other magic users is very much inline with the misfits and misunderstood finding their place, their community, outside of the traditional model. Hannah, it seems, left either to escape the stigma of her birth or because of some as-of-yet unknown actions that left an unforgettable impression. Either way, she left because the culture of Mage U has little sympathy or empathy for someone they deem an abomination. Given Hannah’s vision under the influence of N’Rygoth it’s safe to assume she’s been experiencing this her entire life. It’s why she hides her horns beneath a mountain of hair and keeps her feelings heavily fortified behind a prickly personality. Her ability to trust is about nil so, aside from her parents and Sawyer, the Rat Queens may be the only people she’s felt remotely comfortable around, but even then she still keeps her guard up.

I’d also like to give some massive kudos to Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain for bringing it hardcore on the art and colors. The entire Betty and Violet sledding sequence alone had me out of breath from laughter, but this issue featured a lot of wide shots and crowd scenes, which means details are key. And my God do Fowler and Bonvillainbettyvioletsled infuse these panels with personality. The library and Artisan Quarter are definitely worth looking over a few times just to hunt for easter eggs and cameos – my favorite little piece of nonsense being the students riding in a walking, or flying, bathtub. And I honestly can’t stress enough how much I want Violet and Betty to have a sitcom of their own. They are comedy gold! I’m pretty sure (but don’t quote me) that Bonvillain has used just about every color in the visible spectrum. I wonder when she can start using super-colors?

Oh, you don’t know what super-colors are?

Huh – awkward…

Anyway, Rat Queens #13 is amazing and you should all go read it because something’s about to happen. Something huge. I just know it.

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Braga

I’m gonna keep this one relatively short and sweet (not unlike myself…ha!) because once Rat Queens: Braga #1 is released on January 14th there’s going to be a much bigger conversation about visibility and representation in the transgender community and how comic books and genre fiction factor into it. At least I hope there will be because Braga’s one-shot, written by Kurtis Wiebe, drawn by guest artist Tess Fowler, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and lettered by Ed Brisson is an exemplary piece that highlights the struggle for acceptance and the need for change that occurs even in the world of Rat Queens.

If you’re unfamiliar with Rat Queens, you’ll – seriously? How do you not know about Rat Queens? Never mind – Braga is a secondary character introduced in the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, as the lady orc muscle of the Peaches, a questing group led by Hannah’s rival Tizzie. By the first arc’s end, a few tidbits of information are laid out about Braga that Wiebe elaborates on as Braga tells her story, post-the night of regrets, to Human Dave of the Four Daves. At least she tells most of it. The clever turn from Wiebe and Fowler is the transition from Broog to Braga is never brought up in the narrative proper. Instead, Broog, next in line to lead his clan of bloodthirsty orcs, struggles to combat the culture of his people. While still aroused by battle and blood, Broog sees the orc culture as stagnant, uninterested in evolving past insular communities where reading and writing are practically novel concepts. This isn’t the creators sidestepping the issue of gender, it’s them focusing on the environment and the culture that suppresses individuality and free-thinking, the kind of culture where alienation is palpable. In Broog’s case, he’s not like other orcs because he wants more than just the frenzy of war that has no end. He wants peace and the opportunity for his people to advance. But orcs like his father and brother are less interested in advancement. They prefer their lies and accolades of immortality. They want a less complex world. But like the real world, it’s only going to get more complex as more marginalized groups understand they don’t have to take this kind of suppression and oppression any longer.

BroogWhat’s become apparent in Rat Queens is the underlying theme of families formed from misfits. As we’ve seen so far in the current arc, at least with Violet and Dee, the Queens have left their blood relations and communities to explore a much bigger world. They don’t quite fit in anywhere but Palisade and with each other. Braga’s story is no different in this regard. That she’s no longer a man is indicative of finding her true self after leaving and seeing the rest of the world. The circumstances that led to her severing ties (and limbs) with her clan are best experienced by the reader. And yet there’s still a bittersweet tone to Braga’s story. She’s not bitter about her people, telling Dave she’s more disappointed than angry. The toxicity of an environment like her home could never change through force of will alone and, while it saddens her, she knows leaving them was for the best. Someday she may go back, but for the moment she’s happy to keep her life of questing and fighting in Palisade.

The end of the story, however, raises a thought or two. Even though we’re seeing Braga’s origin as Broog, Dave indicates that he wouldn’t have taken her for a chieftain’s daughter. This could actually be interpreted two ways. One, Dave was told the entire story, knows Braga used to be male, but still refers to her with feminine pronouns because that’s who she is, or two, Braga told her story as if she, as Braga, was fighting her father and clan culture, not as Broog. If it’s the former, then Human Dave is awesome! If it’s the latter, then it serves as a reminder that people like Braga still feel the need to hide and keep secrets. She’s all woman, but even in the fairly open and accepting city of Palisade, she still maintains her distance.Braga1

And before I wrap this up I just wanted to say that Tess Fowler’s art is fantastic! Even in the midst of blood and gore, she makes Broog and Braga endearing characters. There’s just the right amount of sweetness to counter the melancholy. Braga’s smile is just adorable for someone more than happy to cleave a person in two. Of course, Kelly Fitzpatrick brings it with the colors as well. Orcs aren’t the fanciest of dressers, but Fitzpatrick still finds a way to make the background colors pop despite the muted palette of browns, greys, and drab greens associated with the species.

So, yeah, this didn’t turn out to be as short as I thought it would be but, whatever, it’s a great one-shot and here’s hoping more characters from Rat Queens get their own individual story. Except Gary. Fuck that guy.

Rat Queens: Braga #1 will be released on January 14th, so until then you’d better catch up on the previous issues!