Comic Book Review: Rat Queens #15
This is a huge issue and so, to properly unpack it in this review, there will be spoilers. “Rat Queens” is an action packed but comedic adventure story featuring four friends in the town of Palisade. At least, that’s what it started as. After 15 issues, the bonds between Dee, Hannah, Violet and Betty have been tested and in this most recent arc, past demons have come out and everything has comes to a head in this game changing issue.
The “Demons” arc has found the Rat Queens going to the magical college Hannah and Tizzie attended. Once they arrived here, Dee’s brother was revealed, Betty’s past came to light and a big mystery surrounding Hannah started to take shape. Hannah’s parentage and the decisions she made years ago have come back to haunt her in a big way. Hannah made a deal with a fiend and used that power to get ahead in college and it ultimately led to her attacking the council. She used magic she shouldn’t have used and the big twist is that she’s still using it and used in Palisade. Hannah, blinded by her desire to help her father and this dark magic, gives up on being Hannah the Rat Queen and lets herself be Hannah the demon.
Dark transformations of heroic characters isn’t something new for comic books but how it’s done is what makes it matter. The entire “Demons” arc has been about deconstructing this group and taking them from a hard drinking, adventuring group to something more complex. Kurtis Wiebe has planted the seeds of what happens with Hannah from the very beginning through her relationship with both Sawyer and Tizzie and the foreshadowing in some of their comments early on. It’s all been there for us to pick out from the beginning and this is really the payoff. Like a good RPG, “Rat Queens” started off as a fun adventure of friendship and turned into an epic with betrayal and tons of drama. “Rat Queens” #15 changes everything but it’s for the best as this team can now explore a different path for these characters.
The way things fall apart is so well done and completely in line with what this series has been from the get-go in terms of how the women interact. Wiebe writes all the characters in line with their development thus far and in the conflict that comes up, they still deeply care about each other. This doesn’t devolve into a catty argument where awful things are said. Dee in particular tries to keep things together. She is a character who’s gone through a metamorphosis of sorts and has really become the leader of this team which is needed with Hannah seemingly out of the picture for a little bit. The struggle to keep Hannah with the Queens is done in a sympathetic matter because who hasn’t had a blow up with their closest friends or family? It’s not framed in a way where we’re left hating Hannah, however things are grim and it’s not entirely clear if Hannah will come back in the fold.
Tess Fowler’s art has really become “the look” I see in my mind when someone mentions “Rat Queens”. Since coming on to the series she’s done some really great stuff with the character designs and bringing something really athletic to the body types of the Queens. This is such a heavy, emotional issue so much of what she has to do is connect her art to the dialogue in a meaningful way and she does this perfectly. Each page is full of beautiful expression that changes depending on the character. Dee is very steadfast, Violet is angry and Betty is the teary eyed one. Fowler is able to convey a wide range of emotions while doing some storytelling on her own. Her transformation of Hannah is fully realized as she goes from foul mouthed but lovable grump to horned demon with a punk rock edge who is over it all and ready to take out everyone and anyone. Fowler’s art is sexy, energetic and flat out beautiful.
Once you bring in colorist Tamra Bonvillain, you end up with a beautiful, lively book that lives up to it’s hype. Bonvillain’s colors are bold and she has a great ability to set the right tone for the given scene. The first couple of pages are a mistold flashback/story and she uses a lot of dark purples and blues to kind of establish this dream like state that separates it from the rest of the book in a good way. The colors on the costumes pop and each Queen really has a specific palette that never changes. The more magical and violent elements stand out in a way that pulls your eye to it keeping things moving at a great pace.
“Rat Queens” #15 is absolutely a game changer for this series but it also shows what this team is capable of. This issue also boldly states that it will not fit into any boxes people may have put it in early on in it’s run. It’s a genuinely fun book but Wiebe, Fowler and Bonvillain are not going to shy away from shaking things up and delivering a compelling character drama.