Rat Queens II: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth
Written by Kurtis J Wiebe
Art by Stejepan Sejic
Here we are with my second graphic novel review, we're still on the Rat Queen train. Rat Queens was and is written by Kurtis J Wiebe with a new artist for this novel Stjepan Sejic. Stjepan is a professional comic artist from Croatia partly know for being the longest running artist on Witch blade. He has many varied projects in addition to that, he writes and draws the Death Vigil comic (which is an amazing urban fantasy comic story about people working for death to fight necromancers trying to destroy life as we know it) and Sunstone which is an adult webcome romance featuring two woman getting into BDSM (I figured this out when I found Sjtepan's DA page). As you might have guessed, Death Vigil will likely show up here, Sunstone won't. Nothing against that, just not comfortable reviewing it... Or reading it honestly.
Rat Queens continues following the adventures of our four main characters, Hannah, Dee, Violet and Betty. Starting the morning after the first graphic novel ends our girls are fairly sure they have solved their problems and that everything will be smooth sailing from here. They are of course completely and utterly wrong because we got a comic series to continue here. But the Rat Queens are blissfully unaware of this, instead embarking on a job for the mayor for 50 gold a pop (this is likely a slightly more realistic treatment of gold then your average table top but 50 gold? Kinda cheap...). While they're out on the job glorifying in their new found respectability and civic responsibility (they had a party and no one got hurt! They only dinged one statue!). Other people are catching it in the neck.
I stated last review that one of the themes was that actions have consequences and this graphic novel continues it. This time it's not the Queen's actions that catch up to them, it's Sawyer's. The Captain of the Guard past isn't all that clean and it turns out that some folks aren't about to forgive or forget (not telling you the details, read the book!). This happens as Sawyer investigates the disappearance of one of the supporting characters (who was kidnapped last book). We also get introduced to Sawyer's second in command of the guard, Sgt Lola, who is a bad ass. That said I am gonna nitpick a little here. Writers, would it kill you to go over to Wikipedia and look up a rank chart or two? I mean the rank structure goes Captain-->Sgt---> Trooper? Seriously? What if they have to operate in more then 2 groups? What if Sgt Lola and Captain Sawyer are both taken down, I mean granted they are both pretty fucking hardcore (we see Lola rip apart 7 armed men with her bare hands) but demons and shit happen you know? Would it be that terrible if she was Lt. Lola and had 3 or 4 Sgts under her command? I can get some understanding of how paramilitary organizations work beyond what you saw in a Saturday morning cartoon? I mean really. Good news, this is really my only complaint and it's fairly minor.
Sawyer's kidnapper has a heavy grudge and to prove it, he's willing to summon abominations from the Abyss to end all of reality. This is where things get interesting, because attacking said abominations causes people to black out and relive their memories. Which means a string of revelations for various characters! We get to see more of Hannah's and Violet's back stories which is good, but not the whole thing (Wiebe seems to really enjoy teasing it out). Hannah's back story appears to be rather tragic, we learn that the leader of the Peaches (a group that's more of a duo then a team now) Tizzie, was Hannah's friend in college and for some reason things went south. To be fair, things going south seems to be Hannah's back story. Which honestly explains a lot of Hannah's character. She is easily the most abrasive, defensive and outright angry of the Rat Queens. This novels suggests very strongly that the reason she's so angry and hostile is... Everyone treated her like shit with few exceptions (We see like two) until she got into the Rat Queens.
We also see Violet being profoundly unhappy with the traditions of her family and once she's aware the telling those traditions to go hit the bricks is an options... She does it a bit... huh violently. Interestingly enough, we also see that her Mother is actually very supportive of her choices and decisions. Again it's these touches that make the back stories feel more human and less black and white. We also see hints of why they call themselves the Rat Queens. Hannah is mocked by prissier elves calling her a rat elf and Violet learns from a role model that rats are harbingers of destruction in Dwarf mythology. I really like these little touches. We also get more scenes of her and Orc Dave together and frankly... I love them as a couple. I really hope they stick together and make a go at it. We also get some glimpses of Orc Dave's past and realize, he might not always have been the nice laid back bluebird of healing that we see today. I am kinda intrigued at both his and Braga's back stories and hope to see more. Who am I kidding, I want to see more of all the Daves!
We also learn a lot more about Dee... See those abominations from the Abyss? Well our bad guy stole a bunch of stuff from Dee's... Cult? Sect? Hidden Priesthood worshiping a mind wrecking elder god? That enabled him to summon these things, he of course does it wrong which means now the world is at risk of ending (wait summoning these things could end the planet? WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE THESE THINGS?). We're told this by someone from Dee's past, her husband. He's actually pretty cool, he shows him as fairly supportive of Dee's choice. Telling her that he wouldn't have bothered her on her journey but a lot of important stuff has been stolen so things gotta be done. He clearly cares for Dee and wants her to come home but he's not going to put personal stuff in front of the end of the world and he's trying hard not to be jerk about his wife wondering around the world without him. Despite being a worshiper of some sort of demon squid... I kinda like the guy. His appearance and the abominations from the Abyss (AfA? AftA?) really push Dee along on her journey of faith. How that picks up in the 3rd book will be interesting.
Interestingly enough Betty remains completely untouched so far in terms of her history or taking a look inside her mind. Sure she's the most cheerful of the Rat Queens and seems the most well balanced. She's also the most sensitive and insightful often displaying empathy for people around her whether they be members of the party or not. I do find myself wondering if she gets depressed easy, which would explain the constant concentration on candy, sex and drugs, but she could also just be a hedonist. I'm hoping for more information to come later.
The tone in this book is more serious than the last one but still rather lighthearted in the end. While dark and bloody things happen, people don't get grim and angst is left in a ditch in favor of snark and battleshiploads of murder. The violence is still graphic and very well done I think. The art in this book does get more sexual. We have full frontal male nudity along with female toplessness. There is a sort of sex scene in the book, but it's fairly soft core with a nude Hannah sitting on a nude Sawyer. The language is of course utterly filthy. This book is not child or work safe and you should get a parents okay before handing this to a teenager (although frankly I assume by the age of 15 they will have seen worse on the internet).
The world gets a little deeper, as we learn more about it. Although it still remains feeling somewhat generic. The characters and the storytelling itself however are more then enough to keep me coming back. Weibe's insistence on dribbling out revelations in bite sizes keeps me wanting more and often the revelations answer a question and raise 3 more in their place. We also still have no idea how these women meet, why Sawyer did a complete 180 in his life, what the deal with Hannah's parents is and so on. But there are more books coming, so I will trust to hope in the future here.
Rat Queens II gets a B, yeah I know just like the last book. It's fun, it's well done and if you're into the whole tabletop feel you'll have a blast. Long as you don't mind sex, cursing, violence, drugs and of course... Rock and Roll.
Next week: Ancillary Justice at last!