Image Comics this week release #10 of Rat Queens, everyone’s favourite all-girls fantasy adventure series that delivers our regular fix of “sass and sorcery.” Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by new series regular Stjepan Šejić, #10 picks up from the last outing where the queens faced Abyssal Shibagu, demons that feed on the energy of displaced reality and cause lapses in and out of the past. Following the slaughter of the Town’s Watch by Gerrig, Palisade is falling around the queens and they must also save Sawyer, bait to entice Hannah. Carrying on from the nauseating cliff hanger in #9, the queens use magic, swords and snark to ensure the safety of Sawyer and try and salvage whatever’s left of Palisade.
Rat Queens #10 opens with a flashback to when Tizzie and Hannah meet for the first time, when the latter is a cynical and damaged teen in need of a “good friend.” It is little moents like this that remind the reader of the importance of female friendship in Rat Queens; even seeing Hannah and Tizzie work together to summon a death shower in the middle of their epic battle is fun and empowering to witness.
Through their flashbacks, the reader understands Hannah and Sawyer’s relationship a bit more, as well as her issues with intimacy and commitment. We see the queens so often in impenetrable warrior modes, so it is refreshing to see a more vulnerable side to their personalities. There is also a cute romantic subplot between Violet and Dave which is interspersed throughout the issue, seen especially when the chaos subsides and the two have a quiet moment together. There is a lot of heart in Rat Queens, which is the primary factor setting it apart from other fantasy titles.
The writing, as always, is razor sharp and spot on, full of wonderfully filthy one-liners and cut downs (“I prefer Snuggle Tits”). The story is fast-paced- perhaps slowed down slightly by the various flashbacks throughout- and filled with more than enough action and fight scenes. Violence is such an intrinsic part of Rat Queens and it is executed perfectly, especially when Braga decapitates a guy mid-spell.
Šejić’s art work is superb and compliments Wiebe’s writing and the characters themselves perfectly; the subtle use of water colours, for example, are effective especially when he paints the blood and guts that come with the territory as Rat Queens illustrator. His best feature, however, is the emotion he conveys with each character, Hannah especially. As sublime as the writing is, Šejić creates an emotional resonance that endears us even further to these characters. His landscapes, too, are particularly impressive, as seen in the first flashback to Tizzie and Hannah’s first encounter.
As filthy and tumultuous as ever, Rat Queens continues its hugely successful run in #10. It’s impressive that a series as popular as this has maintained such quality despite so many personnel changes in the past year. Between its emotional weight and exploration of love and outsider mentality, great art work and what is simply the best dialogue in comics today, Rat Queens is as close to perfect as comic books get.