The good news is that this volume addresses a lot of the issues I had with the previous one. It’s clear now that the gimmicky descriptions given to the core cast members were just that, and the Queens themselves are quickly becoming their own characters. Now it remains to be seen if writer Kurtis Wiebe can deliver a story that’s worthy of them.
I previously mentioned that the idea of an atheist in a “D&D”-style world is dumb, but Wiebe takes some steps to rectify that by making the plot hinge upon atheist priest Dee’s relationship to her patron deity. The short of it is that a bad guy seeking revenge on elven necromancer Hannah’s boyfriend and the city of Palisade has stolen a magical MacGuffin known as the Haruspex Requiem. It’s such a key artifact in Dee’s “not a cult” fellowship that her husband has tracked her down to break the news. Unless the Queens and their allies can stop him, then the world will be at the mercy of a gaggle of reality-altering tentacle monsters.
While Wiebe doesn’t play up the clash between Dee’s atheism and the reality of the world, he at least manages to address that conflict in a way that makes sense and gives the character a workable status quo going forward. Just about all the cast gets fleshed out in a similar manner here, with warrior Violet getting a full issue to explore her backstory and reveal that, yes, even dwarven women have beards. Beards which are also full of SYMBOLISM that is heavy-handed and amusing in equal measure. We also find out more about Hannah and her history with the people closest to her. It turns out that her cynically caustic humor is a learned response to dealing with all of the crap that life has thrown at her, and will continue to throw at her if the end of this volume is any indication. Only Betty gets the short shrift (*rimshot*) with a brief heart-to-heart with Hannah about her freak-out in the previous volume. This is made up for by the fact that the smidgen is involved with most of the best jokes in this volume.
That also happens to be part of the problem with this volume. I feel like an ass complaining about successful humor and jokes that hit more often than they don’t, but the fact is that Wiebe clearly values them above telling an actual story here. Yes, I liked Betty’s encounter with the Peppermint Woman, and bits like the generic minion’s reaction to our protagonists and their friends coming to kick their ass are great fun. It’s just that it’s hard to get fully invested in a narrative that places the funny bits above a threat that could potentially destroy all of reality. Maybe if he had dialed the threat back just a bit and not thrown something epic enough to be a appropriate for a series finale in the title’s second volume this would be less of an issue. Still, the fact that the jokes are good means that the volume is entertaining throughout. So long as that continues, then I’ll keep reading.
This volume also faces a changeover that would derail most titles as Stjepan Sejic takes over from Roc Upchurch as artist. Much as I liked the art in the first volume, it would’ve been hard to enjoy the series given Upchurch’s domestic violence charges. But is there an artist who can mix fantasy and humor in equal measure as well as him? Yes there is. Sejic is an incredibly versatile artist who can draw stories set in just about every reality and give us convincing characters in all of them. That’s true here as while his style is looser than Upchurch’s, it’s more energetic and even a little better at selling the humor. Sejic turns in some great, vibrant work here that will make you glad he’ll be illustrating the Queens’ adventures for the forseeable future.
It’s been said that if you make people laugh, then you can get away with anything. This volume of “Rat Queens” did just that, so I’m willing to overlook the fact that it has yet to deliver a truly memorable story. This kind of irreverent fantasy action is always welcome in my book, so expect to see reviews of future volumes here as long as Wiebe and Sejic continue to deliver the funny.