With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Of course, occasionally I may even explore comics outside of Marvel if they come highly recommended or simply peak my interest. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic
Issues: Rat Queens #6-10
I heaped a lot of praise onto Rat Queen‘s debut. The mixture of modern language and characters in a D&D-style fantasy world is sublime. An adventuring group of women with varying backgrounds, goals, dreams, and vices. While the plot is a little more simplistic, Volume 2 does a fantastic job giving us more of everything we wanted out of a follow-up.
Volume 2 is titled The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth. It picks up directly after the drunken party our heroines Hannah, Violet, Betty, and Dee threw after their latest victory that saved their town of Palisade.
The after-party nicely encapsulates the personalities and situations of each Queen: Hannah is very off again-on again with sexy town sheriff (and former assassin) Sawyer, Violet sleeps with (and later begins a relationship with) gentle orc druid Dave (of the Four Daves), Betty gets back with her Ex and is a total hippie romantic, while Dee feels more alone than ever as she runs from her past.
Unfortunately for our heroines, the villains of the previous story were never actually defeated. While Gerrig and Bernadette’s evil partnership dissolved, they both escaped. Now Gerrig is sporting a death mask, a sacred artifact to Dee’s people that can control the veil between our world and the Cthullu-esque demons waiting to pour through. He blames Sawyer’s past as an assassin for his wife’s death. He captures Sawyer, ties him naked to a cross, and summons giant tentacle monsters to destroy the town.
The plot is a little too cut and dry, and it’s a shame we simply reuse the same villain, though with different circumstances. What makes everything so fantastic is the effect the abyssal demons have on people. Specifically trying to fight one results in going through a time distortion and reliving past moments of your life.
We’re treated to some tantalizing pieces of backstory for Violet and Hannah, including Hannah’s rebelliousness over her traditional dwarven family and Hannah’s outcast, bad girl childhood and teen years as a dark mage (and possible literal demon child).
Meanwhile Dee gets a surprise visit from her estranged husband – what! He seems really nice, but Dee is determined to run away from her people’s religion and culture. After seeing the demon monsters we can see why, though it’s also Dee that has to save them all in the end by killing Gerrig and donning the mask.
First the Queens have to fight through a fortress full of cannon fodder. It’s a glorious two-issue action scene not unlike the epic climax of the previous Volume. With only five issues per story arc (most comics do six) the story does feel a bit too streamlined but damn if the action isn’t absolutely incredible. It’s fun to watch the Queens use D&D style tactics together, like Hannah using a shield spell to protect Betty from ankles while she slides in and slices up a pair of guards.
The series also brings in most of the side characters from Volume 1. Rival adventuring group the Four Daves and half the surviving Peaches – Braga and Tiz. Oh and Lola, Sawyer’s second-in-command, who has the single most badass fight scene in the whole comic as she takes on seven dudes with some amazing king-fu action. If you ever had difficulty picturing the monk class beating dudes with weapons – Issue #7 is for you.
The focus remains centered on our Queens. The series is grounded by their mutual respect and camaraderie, which makes it such a fantastic take on a D&D-style adventuring party. I still love the use of modern language and copious amount of cursing. It helps make the story incredibly relatable even while magic spells are flinging off and demons are pouring though the sky. Our heroines laugh, cry, fuck, scream, and persevere. Oh, and there’s a lot more sexy time in this volume, but it always serves a purpose.
It helps that Roc Upchurch’s vivid art is so amazing (and sucks that he was arrested for domestic violence in late 2014 which ended his career on Rat Queens after issue 8). Stjepan Sejic took over art duties and I may even like him more, especially his more angular Hannah. I’m looking forward to Tess Fowler’s work on Volume 3 as well.
While the plot lacks the slow build-up, investigation, and shock villain reveals of Volume One, everything else is an amazing improvement. I loved the backstory glances for our heroines, the burgeoning relationships, the bloody action, the hot sex, everything. The Rat Queens are some of my favorite characters in comics and I’m absolutely on board for any and all of their crazy adventures.