I don't know why I held off reading Rat Queens for so long, until this review I had never given it a shot, and that was a huge mistake. Even though previous reviews have stated why this comic is so highly praised and successful, I just have to reiterate for those that still aren't convinced. This series represents a new type of fantasy comic, one where strong female leads are represented in a realistic and powerful light. There is no fan service here, and nothing in it that is simply thrown in for male readership. This is just a comic that is about four badass adventurers who are also women, and it couldn’t be better. Despite there being four main characters there is absolutely no characterization lost, all thanks to Wiebe’s sincere and charming writing. Wiebe succeeds where other comics with multiple leads fail, giving life and vibrant personality to Violet, Betty, Hannah, and Dee, without which Rat Queens wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. Okay, now that I got that out of the way, onward to issue #13.
This issue continues the latest story arc dealing with Hannah’s family, specifically her father and her university, “Mage U”. Her father has been imprisoned by the university’s council for staging a student rebellion against them, and apparently it isn’t the first time that he has done something like this. Meanwhile the Rat Queens awake in Mage University after a harrowing encounter with demons in “Dank Cave” last issue. The majority of the issue focuses on each character individually as they make their way through the vast college campus, exploring its wonders. Violet wanders aimlessly, trying to find her friends. Betty meets a fellow Smidgen who is a master inventor and takes interest in his latest creations (more on this later). Dee decides to explore Mage University’s library, which according to the librarian, has every book every written within its halls. She ventures into the religious wing to further her research on her own religion and her quest for knowledge surrounding her people’s God. In quite surprising fashion her brother is also in the exact same wing of the library (convenient, huh?).
The majority of this issue focuses on Hannah, as we desperately seek answers to the demon that she faced in issue 12. It can safely be assumed that she is the child of a demon, but it is unclear what that means for her up to this point. Her presence is unwelcome at the University, but her former professor, Filch, talks with her regardless. Filch is some type of elemental being who is immortal and tells Hannah that she is leaving this world, weary of mortals constant power struggles with one another. Before she goes she opens a portal for Hannah. Hannah tentatively wanders in, and there she meets her human mother. This issue deepens the questions that we have regarding Hannah and her parentage. Is she a demon? How does that play in with her mortal parents? Wiebe plays with our emotions here, as we want to see Hannah happy and safe, but the cards seem stacked against her.
Issue 13 ends with Violet and Betty careening off a cliff on Betty’s newly purchased sled, running into some type of frost dragon at the bottom of a mountain. Rat Queens is infamous for its cliffhangers, but this one feels a little cheap. I’m more interested in Hannah’s discovery than Violet and Betty’s. Though this is probably the result of the story being slightly more focused on Hannah than the others for the first time. Rat Queens has always been about friendship, and it still is, but so far this arc leans a little more in Hannah’s court. There isn’t anything wrong with that necessarily, but for me the best part of this comic is learning to love each character for their flaws, and seeing how they always help each other out of the ridiculous situations they find themselves in. I’m not saying that Wiebe is drifting from that formula at all, and I’m sure that the plot will even itself out as this arc continues.
Regardless, issue 13 remains an expository issue, full of dialogue and minor character developments. It lacked the thrilling action and humor that keeps the series exciting for me. I know that plot has to be revealed somehow and it can’t always be gobbo-slaying or drunken revelry, but this action is what made me love the series in the first place. Hopefully the next few issues will pick up and balance out the exposition with the action that Rat Queens always so gratuitously delivers.
Rat Queens #13 Writer: Kurtis J Wiebe Artist: Tess Fowler Colorist: Tamra Bonvillian Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/18/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital