Review: Rat Queens #4

If my week had gone differently, trust me you would have been hearing about this issue a lot sooner. I said in my review for the third issue that the book was different from the first two issues, but better for it. That continues here. It’s almost as if Kurtis Wiebe started off thinking this series was going one way and then when he wrote it, well the story took him in a different direction. I’m thankful for it because it manages to get better and better with each issue. This particular issue introduced my new favorite character Gary. I seem to remember Gary from another issue, but I’m not sure. He stood out in this issue along with his catchphrase “shut the fuck up, Gary.” Seriously Wiebe and Roc Upchurch need to put that on a shirt and find other ways to weave it into the story. Not every issue, but when you’re least expecting it… bam, “shut the fuck up, Gary!” I couldn’t stop saying it and the line made me actually laugh out loud. I won’t tell you the complete context in which the line is used and even though I’ve spoiled the line for you, the context is what will make you laugh.

In the last issue we learned who was behind the hiring of the assassins that attempted or succeeded in killing some of the other adventurers. Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh they’re just going to spend the entire issue dealing with that shit”… nope. In fact “that shit” is wrapped up quickly, but reveals Sawyer to be a major bad-ass in the process. We also get a “let’s get stabby” line from Betty which should also be a shirt. In fact a lot of this series should and could go on a T-Shirt… and then into my closet. The bulk of the issue is spent dealing with a troll attack on the town caused by none other than the Rat Queens. Why are they suddenly attacking the town? Well everything about this story is connected so you’ll see how it ties in.

There’s been this surge of comics with great stories, great art and plenty of humor. People used to call comics “funny books” and yet I could count how many books made me laugh last year… not many. Rat Queens doesn’t sacrifice story for humor which is why it’s great at both. Sometimes a creator only cares about the jokes and so the plot is painfully bad, but Wiebe finds the right balance. The fight with the trolls could just be the series meeting its action quota, but there’s a reason for it and it represents the ladies dealing with a bigger problem than trolls… they’re reputation.

ratqueens04_coverI seriously don’t know who Wiebe manages to pack each issue with so many great one-liners and just catchy dialogue in general. If it were any other creator and any other story it would be an instant hindrance to the comic, but with Rat Queens Wiebe finds that perfect balance.

What would this series be without Roc Upchurch? I don’t think any other artist could step in for him and nail this world the way he does. Wiebe isn’t the only one that must find a perfect balance for the story as Upchurch faces the same challenge. In fact he has a tougher challenge of knowing when the art should also be funny and match the dialogue or when the joke is better with the characters looking serious.

A huge part of what makes the comedy work and succeed is Upchurch’s visual narratives. When Betty pulls Sawyer in close to her face you can’t help but laugh and the entire success of the joke hangs on that last frame. Without it you would realize instantly that you’ve heard a similar joke from somewhere else. I still can’t say enough about Upchurch’s coloring. I think every artist would benefit from learning his approach. I’m not saying all books should be colored the same, but I think it would improve the overall approach for most colorists.

Everyone always says that critics don’t talk about the letterers enough and really it’s because the lettering is pass/fail in most people’s minds. Ed Brisson does a great job on this series though. Betty’s “Wwwoww” is a perfect example of how the lettering brings out the personality of the characters. The thing is, when lettering is done right you never even notice or think about it. When it’s done great, like it is here, you notice it. You can’t help but notice it because it adds to the story.

This was a great week for comics, but if I had to rank releases Rat Queens would be somewhere at the top of my list. This series is one I would wait on if it ensured the quality never dipped or changed and as it is I’ll be looking forward to the next issue for sure.

I feel like I talked about this book a lot last year, but after reading the last two issues I think I’ll be talking about it even more this year. If you haven’t checked it out just jump in, there isn’t a bad place to begin and you’ll enjoy it even if you don’t have all the details. How else are you going to learn who Gary is and why he should shut the fuck up?

Score: 5/5

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe Artist: Roc Upchurch Letterer: Ed Brisson Publisher: Image/Shadowline Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/15/14