Posts Tagged ‘Palisade’

It’s been a hell of a time for the Rat Queens, internally and externally, but despite some hiccups along the way Kurtis Wiebe’s sophomore arc, The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, went above and beyond in its storytelling as the Rat Queens and friends fought to save Palisade from the mind-altering squid demons of another dimension. Like ya do. But like everything Wiebe does there’s a greater story being told while the Queens punch, curse, and bring destruction to their enemies with 3964263-07righteous fury. If the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, was our introduction to the world of Rat Queens, then N’Rygoth is our introduction to the people within that world. Now that we have a handle on the personalities and the dynamic between Hannah, Betty, Dee, and Violet, it’s time we got a better idea of who they are and what brought them together.

If we’re going to boil the story down to its nitty-gritty elements, then these are the essentials: Gerrig Lake, the merchant who Old Lady Bernadette hired to “take care” of the quest group problem in Palisade, has been secretly plotting to release demonic beings worshiped by Dee’s religious order to get revenge on Sawyer for the death of his wife. As the demons attack Palisade and its residents, the Rat Queens fight their way to Gerrig’s stronghold, with help from the Four Daves and the Peaches, while trying to stave off the time-altering mind fuckery of the tentacled creatures from beyond. Of course there’s more to the story than just that, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Just know that this is the minimal amount of information you need without being ridiculously spoiled.

That being said…spoilers ahead (unintentional rhyme!).

After the events of the previous volume, the Rat Queens find themselves revisiting their pasts on an epic scale that still manages to feel surprisingly intimate. The arrival of Dee’s husband, Kiah, Hannah’s on-again-off-again relationship with Sawyer, and Violet’s inspirational meeting with the clean-shaven Morgan Meldhammer all speak to the underlying themes of the book: outcasts, acceptance, and misfit families. The need for acceptance and the feeling of belonging has been present from the get-go, but it’s really in N’Rygoth that we see exactly why the world of Rat Queens is so important and why fucktraditionso many people within the comic book community have become ravenous fans. Wiebe stated it very clearly when I interviewed him about the Braga one-shot. Rat Queens is about home and how people from disparate backgrounds come together and create their own families.

This is especially relevant when one looks at the geek community. We’ve often felt isolated because of our interests, but within the communities of fandoms and internet groups, and the rallying point of conventions, we find acceptance and a place where we can be ourselves. Yes, there are times when the creation of like-minded groups causes a great deal of harm, but there are just as many, if not more, cases of groups producing beautiful displays of love, friendship, and family through their bond over something they love. It’s the inclusive nature of Rat Queens that makes us all want to be a part of this world where modern sensibilities meet high fantasy. There’s a reason the book won a GLAAD award. Just sayin’.

From the beginning of the book, Rat Queens has felt fleshed out in a way that many sword and sorcery comics suffer to Broogaccomplish. Wiebe’s grasp of the characters, of the people of Palisade, contains just enough of the man himself and his own experiences that one can’t help feeling his sincerity. While Dee is the character Wiebe identifies with the most, he still manages to weave in similarities between most of the Rat Queens. Dee’s religious community, Violet’s tradition-mired clan, Braga’s stagnate horde of orcs, and the subtle jabs directed at Hannah for being a “demon baby” all drive the point home that narrow-mindedness is poison and isolation breeds intolerance. The saving grace for all of them was finding each other in a place where diversity is the norm. Although we still don’t know much about Betty…for now.

Yeah, if I was going to lob any kind of criticism on a book I clearly love, it’d be that Betty, while present within the story, didn’t have much in the way of character development in this arc. Even in the last two issues she doesn’t have much to say or do except regroup with her friends. I can understand with the focus shifts in the story and the unintended hiatus of the book leading to a shorter narrative that something had to give. It’s not unlike the previous arc where Dee’s background was put aside so her outlook and background could have a more thorough explanation so I’m gonna give Rat Queens the benfit of the doubt and trust that Betty will get her due with the next story.

RatQueens10_Review-hannah-saywer-660x1015As far as the art goes, Rat Queens really can’t fail from a stylistic standpoint. Yes, the circumstances that brought Stjepan Šejić on as the book’s new artist were unfortunate, but the way he renders Roc Upchurch’s designs are fantastic. Šejić brings just as much energy and movement to the book, but it’s in his expressions where he really punches you in the gut. The scene between Hannah and Sawyer in which Hannah reveals that her rockabilly hairdo is actually hiding a pair of horns is pitch perfect. Šejić captures that fleeting moment where Hannah hopefully looks to Sawyer to say the right thing, which goes as well as you might expect, but the impact of that one panel gave me quite the visceral reaction. There was also Dave and Violet’s romance novel kiss, which made me squeal in delight. Of course, it must be mentioned that Tess Fowler’s work on the Braga one-shot was phenomenal! Like Šejić she makes her style work for telling Braga’s tale. There a hint of adorkability that makes the pages feel warmer, more inviting – that would also be the work of colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick – even when Braga is slaughtering other clans so the bards can sing her accolades.

Rat Queens is a book that plans to be around for a long time and I couldn’t be happier. And it looks like the Queens are headed to Mage University soon. I can’t wait!

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It’s about time the most badass group of lady adventurers returned to grace us with their foul mouths and sweet fighting skills. When last we left the Rat Queens, Palisade was under attack from reality-warping tentacle creatures, RatQueens_09the Abyssals, sent by Gerrig Lake as vengeance against Sawyer Silver. In the wake of their first unsuccessful charge, the Rat Queens and the remaining warriors of Palisade rally together to storm Gerrig’s stronghold, stop the attack, and save Sawyer. Unfortunately, their presence, especially Hannah’s, may have been part of his plan all along.

The influence of the past on the present appears to be the broader theme of Rat Queens‘ current arc. Gerrig is avenging the death of his wife, who he blames Sawyer for by using dimensional beings from Dee’s former religion – the community she left in order to find herself. Under the spell of the Abyssals, Violet’s break with her dwarven clan and the seeds for the group’s name were planted. We were even been treated to a look at Braga’s past and the dangers of a culture unwilling to change. Now, it’s Hannah’s turn and like Dee and Violet her mother is at the center of it all. If there’s a second recurring theme to Rat Queens, then it’s the power of a mother’s love. And not in that sappy “saved by the power of love” deus ex machina kind of way that’s been overused, but a deep understanding and empathy that many mothers have that gives them greater insight into the needs and wants of their children. On a personal level, I can attest to this. Sometimes it feels like my mom knows what my decision or actions will be even before I do and she trusts that I’ll find my way despite times when I couldn’t feel more lost. Granted, one could make a case for both parents having a positive influence, but so far in Rat Queens the only two fathers featured have been bullies or ignorant jerks. They mean well in their own way, but the mothers of our Queens gave their girls the most important tools to becoming the women they are – acceptance and compassion. As far as Hannah’s hallucination goes, there’s clearly some untruth DumbBradgoing on where her mother is concerned. No spoilers, but you loyal readers may recall Hannah taking a “rune call” from her mother in the first issue of Rat Queens, so either the Abyssals are just messing with Hannah’s head or the scene in question actually happened and Mama Vizari recovered. If it’s the latter, then that’s one hell of a recovery.

This issue also marks the introduction of Stjepan Šejić (Sunstone) as the book’s new artist and by N’Rygoth is he fantastic! Already known for being a speed demon of an artist, Šejić maintains the full-figure look of the Rat Queens but gives them an extra bit of muscle and umph that aesthetically puts them on par with his DC Comics doodles of Wonder Woman or Big Barda. These are strong women and Šejić puts as much of that mentality into how the Rat Queens come across visually. There’s also a wide range of expressions that Šejić captures perfectly, from Mama Vizari’s annoyance to the condescending grimace of a castle guard. And as detailed as the faces look, there’s a gorgeous quasi-defined painted quality to his backgrounds and colors. I admit I do miss Roc Upchurch’s illustrations, but Šejić has definitely found a new way of looking at the world of the Rat Queens.

Pick up Rat Queens #9 on March 4th and remember how fucking dumb Brad is!

Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!Braga1

Previously I did a review of the Rat Queens One-Shot that focused on Braga’s life before Palisade, the Peaches, and the Rat Queens when she was still the Orc chieftain’s son, Broog. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with guest artist Tess Fowler, Braga’s story is one of exploring the stagnant culture that breeds intolerance as Broog tries to pull his clan out of the rut of war and brutality, but meets resistance at every turn. Tired of fighting against his own people, Broog leaves his clan disappointed but hopeful that his clan will eventually come around. The issue is significant not just for addressing transgender characters in comics, but also for how the subject is broached. At no point does the transition from Broog to Braga occur within the story. Instead, Wiebe and Fowler make it about the environment surrounding Broog and the factors that push him to leave. It’s a brilliant story, so I reached out to Kurtis Wiebe with my eight questions and he was kind enough to answer them through email.

(more…)

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!

If I was the meteorologist of Palisade, I’d definitely start rethinking my career options. A rainstorm is one thing, but giant tentacled elder gods? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that isn’t in the job description. Or maybe it is; this is Palisade after all. More importantly, this is Rat Queens.RatQueens_07-1

After finding the missing Bernadette wandering the streets with her still scary as all hell eyes, Hannah takes her back to the Rat Queens’ home to figure out what happened to her despite the fact that she’s still a complete bitch and tried to have the Queens killed. At Casa de Rat Queens, Dee and her husband, Mezikiah, awkwardly catchup. Though he’s glad to see that she’s thriving in Palisade with her friends, there’s a measure of expectation from Kiah that Dee will figure things out and return to their religious community. Because it definitely isn’t a cult. It’s totally a cult. However, Kiah’s visit is two-fold. It seems as though their people were visited by Gerrig Lake who stole an important artifact, the Haruspex Requiem – a death mask containing all the knowledge of every high priest of Dee and Kiah’s people. His reasons for taking the mask? Revenge, of course. Revenge on Palisade and on Sawyer in particular.

The past, it seems, is creeping up on everyone in Rat Queens. Prior to reaching out a helping hand to Bernadette, Hannah and Tizzie get into a fairly heated argument that speaks to a darker past for the rockabilly mage; she’s the only one in Palisade capable of using darker magic, her parents are necromancers, and she’s still using Necrius as part of her spell-casting. We’ve already seen Hannah tap into her darker side during the battle with the trolls and Betty’s concern for how scary it was to see her so full of rage, so it’s very possible we could be seeing a heel-turn from Hannah if she goes completely to the Dark Side. Sawyer and Dee’s pasts tangentially cross paths through the involvement of Gerrig Lake, but only because Sawyer’s past as an assassin caused the death of Gerrig’s wife, the only bright spot in his life in Palisade.

Dee’s religious background, however, has become integral to the plot as all hell breaks loose. Kurtis J. Wiebe has repeatedly stated that Dee’s backstory reflects his own upbringing in a small, religious town and through Dee he explores the complicated relationship people have with religion. Dee left her home and family to find herself separate from the religious community. Kiah, in his own way, tempts her with letters from her mother, but he also points out that Dee wears the markings of their religion, which she didn’t have when she left. If Dee is so skeptical of the tenets of her people and the purpose of their religious practices, then why did she willingly take on the markings of N’Rygoth?

As a lapsed Catholic, I can say that I understand the contradictions inherent in separating yourself from religion yet still finding pieces of it to latch on to. When our lives, our families, are tied up in a specific belief system, and we break away, there’s still a part of us that remains attached. I may not go to church anymore, and I question A LOT of things about religion in general, but I still have my rosary, I remember the prayers, I have tattoos featuring crosses, and sometimes I even try to stick to things like Lent. Like it or not, my religious background isn’t something I can entirely separate myself from. Dee, as far as I know, is in a similar position, and she’s also quick to point out tumblr_n7qv3hNd381rz6qqno5_1280to Kiah that their religion is now being used to torture and maim. But Kiah counters with the fact that their gods are neutral and it’s the actions of mortals that manifests evil. In this case, evil literally manifests in the form of a tentacled creature from the abyss. We have our gods, they have theirs, but it’s nice to know that Wiebe doesn’t blame religion so much as he blames the people who corrupt and abuse it for their own purposes.

On the lighter side of things, Betty is high as fuck and it is glorious! Just that look in her eyes as she hallucinates her candy dream date is hilarious and it provides a welcome interlude in a pretty dark portion of the story, though I expect it to get darker. It’s one of the aspects of Rat Queens that I truly love. The characters and the story aren’t fighting each other. There’s equally as much time devoted to progressing the plot as there is making sure the characters react in their own way. Cracking jokes, eating candy people, it all fits regardless of the looming danger.

And because there’s no way to fit this into the flow of the review organically, just know that Lola’s fight scene is all kinds of awesome. Girl has some skills, I tell ya. Very nice, Roc Upchurch. Very nice!

Rating – 10/10

Final Thoughts: The forecast for Palisade is rain, wind, and a tentacled elder god bent on destruction. Remember to bring an umbrella.