Some time ago, we reported here at Sequart that Heavy Metal magazine was about to “go Hollywood” in a serious way. And, lo and behold, here we are now seeing some of the first products of that initiative and they’re very promising indeed. The most notable project is Image Comics’ Rat Queens, a comic that I’ve been reviewing here for a few months. Heavy Metal is developing it as an animates series, and it’s inspired casting.
Rat Queens features the adventures of four sword-and-sorcery type heroines who together form a freelance mercenary gang (the “rat queens”) and defend their home town of Palisade from all manner of beast. The comic is currently exploring a revenge plot involving a dark cult devoted to a tentacled beast, but there are any number of stories this series could tell. Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe has created a wonderfully expansive world, full of vivid characters with modern sensibilities and edgy dialogue. My short description would be an animated fantasy series version of Archer, which is a compliment on a number of levels. Like Archer, Rat Queens has characters who are continually engaging and entertaining, who together form a winning comedy team that can also explore a larger world and play out traditional adventure plots. These are also characters who have a deep bond and history with each other, and unlike in so many such series, they don’t use a lot of exposition to establish this. Rather, the series alludes to a history and uses it to motivate their contemporary relationships.
Another great thing about Rat Queens that I don’t mention often enough in the reviews is that these are also great female characters, who act completely outside the restrictions of our usual gender-normative comics. Which is to say that they love to drink and do drugs and have sex (lots of that) and mix it up with the bad guys. The book easily passes the Bechdel Test, for what it’s worth. This isn’t Buffy-level melodrama or sentimentality, but something much scrappier and more intense. But the level of dialogue and the complexity of the characterizations are on the same level as Whedon’s series. It’s well worth a read, and with any luck, especially given that Heavy Metal is back this project, it will be well worth a watch as well.