Review: Rat Queens Special: Braga #1
Before we delve too deeply into this issue, it must be said that the title Rat Queens is the definitive sword and sorcery comic being made today, and one of the very best books on the stands regardless of genre. From the first issue it has transcended it’s promise to spoof the stories of lore and turn them on their head, and has delivered truly honest and sincere pages transcribing the nature of identity, finding a place in the world, and forging your own path despite what is expected of you. The titular group are often the ones delivering the heartfelt epiphanies but one of the series’ strengths is taking characters introduced in the background, or even as a joke, and developing them into strong, even essential, characters.
This all very neatly brings us to Rat Queens Special: Braga #1. This review will spoil much of the issue so if you would like to go in blind, as you should, feel free to skip to the score and know I find it required reading. Packed into a one shot by series creator Kurtis Wiebe and featuring guest art by Tess Fowler, the Braga Special condenses everything that elevates Rat Queens from escapist entertainment to carefully filtered statement on our own humanity. Hyperbole? Consider the evidence this issue presents us with.
Fresh from the afterparty post battle, Braga finds herself relating a tale of her past to Human Dave her new FWB. In this tale, a young orc Broog, heir to the leadership of his clan, tires of his people’s need for relentless revenge in the form of bloody warfare. He confides his true feelings to the only orc he can trust to be himself, his best friend Kiruk. Broog dreams of an end to the bloodshed and aspires for his people to be more like the outside world. Tradition and duty force Broog to face the cold truth, his people will never change and he will never be one of them. His brother Voon is more of a traditionalist but cannot be the heir to the clan due to Broog being the eldest son. An easy fix for the violent an power hungry orc as an assassination attempt is made. The result disgusts Broog so thoroughly and costs him so much, that he abandons the clan and chooses to remain an outcast forever.
Braga is telling her story. She was once Broog and this is how she came to accept herself despite her society and despite her family’s wishes and beliefs. The story of how Broog became Braga was handled so deftly, the mere concept of Braga’s transformation to her true gender didn’t even need to be addressed. We can see the pain and disgust she felt as Broog living within a society that can not understand her. We see her trying so hard to be free within the confines of Broog. We see the burden and ironic torment of the responsibility of being the eldest son when Voon was the eldest son all along. But most importantly we see Braga, happy in the present and in total control of her life and Human Dave happy to share this moment of sincerity as well as another romp between the sheets. It’s a non-issue to him as it is presented as well as it should be to us. Her story rings true to anyone who felt out of place where they should belong the most and that is the entire moral of the tale.
In a time when it is nigh revolutionary to have a book starring a female protagonist who doesn’t rely upon tips and ass to sell, we have a book that has four leads who cut their own paths despite their roles that features a transgendered character that is treated like everyone else and not some anomaly. Writer Kurtis Wiebe is using this foul-mouthed, violent, gory, sexy, subversive comic book to speak about the human condition in ways that aren’t done in popular tv or movies, much less comics. Tess Fowler treats the material with respect, taking care to detail everything in Braga’s world and expressing more than enough through pained expressions and body language. Together they have created an aside to the main story that should hit right to the heart of everyone who knows what it feels like to be someone you are not allowed to be, including the liberation of declaring to reality “Fuck You, I Do What I Want.”
Rat Queens Special: Braga #1 should be given away freely to anyone who feels alone in living in the wrong body, culture, social role, family, or mindset. It is a testament to thriving as the true You despite what you are expected to be. It relishes in embracing this theme and carefully structures a tale that is relevant and relatable to the lives of those born different. It should have been a parody of the DnD world of storytelling, but Rat Queens is turning into one of the most heartfelt and profound comics being made today. This book is a game changer, and this issue should be celebrated and used as an example of how comics can be relevant to our world and the plight of those marginalized within it. Buy 20 copies of Rat Queens Special: Braga #1 and do the world a favor and give 19 of them away liberally.