-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”
-J.: In our last piece, we summed up our feelings about DC’s Convergence event by telling you to read the brand-new Rat Queens volume instead. It’s been a couple weeks, and we’ve thoroughly read, re-read, and digested this second volume. Having done so, we would like to say, in many more words, “seriously, you need to read this series.”
Steph: As some of you know, “-J. & Steph Talk About Comics” was created because I NEEDED to tell everyone about Rat Queens.
-J.: It’s true. So let’s tell them about volume 2.
Rat Queens Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth
Words by Kurtis J. Wiebe, art by Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic, published by Image Comics
-J.: For those of you who haven’t read it yet, there may be a few minor spoilers. Maybe. But minor one. But potential spoilers, nonetheless.
Steph: I’m torn between not wanting to spoil the story for anyone and just coming up with different ways to say, “You should read this, it’s amazing!” over and over.
-J.: When we last left our Queens, they were celebrating not only a hard-fought victory, but also their turn towards Big Damn Heroes who Save Their City. The morning after their epic “we’re not dead” party, we get to see the tensions and dynamics that make up the Queens.
Steph: Tensions that seemed to be caused mostly by Hannah. Pretty much all the time. Her need to control everything becomes apparent when the others can’t even make breakfast without her criticism.
-J.: Despite the fact that the Queens aren’t getting run out of town, have found love & respect, and are earning coin, the group is far from harmonious or happy. Meanwhile, we start to learn a bit more about Gerrig, that shady merchant from volume 1.
Steph: He’s one who was hired by ‘Old Lady’ Bernadette to off the Queens. We discover (as does Bernadette, much to her dismay) Gerrig is more of major player than a catspaw. Betty astutely surmised when we first met him that Gerrig could be someone to feel sorry for. His missing wedding ring shows him as someone who was probably in pain, but like many villains he uses that pain to justify hurting others.
-J.: Gerrig is a great villain for this narrative. We know why he’s doing bad things and we know what motivates him, but I was still taken aback by what his ultimate endgame is. For all the fun that Wiebe and company are having with fantasy-punk elements, they still ground their characters and stories in believable terms.
Steph: When Dee’s estranged husband shows up claiming that the Haruspex Requiem (the ceremonial death mask that can give the wearer the ability to call forth demons from the abyss) had been stolen, and was traced back to their city, we start to get an idea of just how Gerrig will achieve his revenge.
-J.: I like the way that Wiebe shapes the narrative to fit his expository needs. After volume 1, it’s time to get more of the Queens’ backgrounds, but the creators thankfully use Gerrig’s nefarious plan as a method to provide some flashback scenes.
Steph: Gerrig is calling demons from an abyssal plane, which creates distortions in time and reality. Simply looking at the abominations can scramble your brain, and in the subsequent blackouts the Queens relive moments from their past. We get to see Violet as a young dwarf, before she decides to shave her beard. And little Hannah in a moment with her mother before something horrible happens–
-J.: But Hannah’s pulled back into the present before we learn what actually happened. This creates great story beats, and also sets up plot threads for future volumes.
Steph: Hopefully with some of Betty’s history. How did that adorable smidgen become a sugar-addicted drug-pusher? How did all four of them even meet, let alone decide forming an adventuring group together was a good idea?
-J.: All good questions, and we got snippets and hints of the group’s beginnings. But this volume is focused on individual relationships and how they can come back to help or haunt us (or both). The group relationship takes a backseat to each character’s history, Violet and her family, and her dwarven traditions. Hannah and her parent(s), and her friends, rivals, and lovers. Sawyer and his former profession. Dee and her (surprise!) husband, and her people’s worship of eight-tentacled N’rygoth.
Steph: As Dee and her husband attempt to stop the destruction of their town (and most likely all of reality) we get more jumps in time. Most of these involve Hannah, giving backstory to the relationships she has in the present. Her rivalry with Tizzy of the Peaches, and her complicated relationship with Sawyer.
-J.: And, possibly of how she met Violet. Possibly. We can’t be sure, since the brief appearance of Hannah in Violet’s flashback happens as Violet is waking up. I expect we’ll see more of this meeting as the series progresses. For now, the heroes have enough to worry about with the end of the world and such. Luckily, Gerrig only hired a single army to take on the Queens and their allies.
Steph: Wiebe seems to have a gift for blending fun, light-hearted banter and serious ass-kicking, sometimes fucked up, scenes. The Rat Queens remain the badass characters that they are, but their personalities and subsequent growth from fighting with (and learning from) each other is fantastic.
-J.: As a side note, I am totally writing up 13th Age rules for that ‘death shower’ spell that Tizzy and Hannah team up to cast. That’s why I love Rat Queens — it’s not just a cracking good story. It also makes you laugh, challenges your perceptions, and inspires you.
To Sum It All Up…
Have we mentioned that we love this series? Rat Queens is good, and you should read it. We’ll revisit them again when volume 3 is out. Naturally.