There are so many things to love about Rat Queens Volume 1. The characters, themes and story are all so enchanting and completely badass that you can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading it. The Rat Queens are a group of raucous adventurers in the fantasy land of Palisade. Volume 1 follows them through their escapades as they try to fend off assassins, beasts and other dangers lurking in their town. These girls are fierce, independent and know how to kick ass. They’re all so refreshingly different from one another, yet they band fiercely together to form an unlikely, rag-tag group of adventurers.
Each Rat Queen has her own personality and strengths that differ significantly from the others. There are so many instances in our culture of women attacking other women out of jealousy, spite or other petty, “girlish” reasons. The Rat Queens, despite their differences, trust each other and have an unbreakable friendship that carries them through the bloodiest of battles. (That sounds gushy and The Queens probably wouldn’t care for that phrasing, but it’s the truth.)
Violet comes off as the level-headed (as level-headed as you can be in the Rat Queens), practical, leader-of-sorts. This fiery redhead is deadly in combat, which is proven time and time again throughout the volume. Her swordsmanship and archery skills are nothing to dismiss. She’s not afraid of getting banged up or cut open in battle; she doesn’t shy away from challenges. She rejects tradition in favor of her own choices – she cut her dwarf beard! Violet is headstrong. She is the type of woman that needs to be featured more often in comics. If you’re looking for a damsel-in-distress, you’d better keep looking. Or, follow Violet because she’s probably doing the one rescuing.
Dee is quiet and intelligent, which makes her fit into the misfit group of the Rat Queens. She’s shyer and more socially awkward, which makes her superbly relatable. It’s charming (in a wonderful way) to see a woman who can kick butt in battle but struggle in social situations. She’s a goddess, but that doesn’t magically bestow her any social grace, like a princess. Dee is no Cinderella… she probably likes it that way, too. Despite her quiet nature, she’s a rebel at heart. She rejects the “squid-god” her culture worships. She is a free-thinking, independent woman who loves to read. Because of these wonderful characteristics, she’s the kind of goddess that deserves worshipping herself – not by other characters, but by readers.
Hanna is the no-nonsense, ain’t-gonna-take-crap-from-nobody, tough bitch. Her personality is so intriguing; it’s dichotomous. She’s stalwart and downright vicious to people not in her pack. Her personality softens, however, when interacting with the women in the Rat Queens and others she trusts. Her language is still rough-and-tumble and she’ll always be edgy, but it’s obvious she cares about the people she surrounds herself with. Hanna’s a complex character who is beautifully written because her tenacious attitude feels like a front to help protect her from something. She is intense in everything she does, including fighting, trusting and partying.
It’s so easy to fall in love with little Betty. She’s tiny, but can take down trolls and ogres faster than you can say “smidgen.” She’s stealthy and dangerous, yet so very sweet. Despite Betty’s physically small size, she is not discriminated against, undervalued or belittled as part of the Rat Queens. She brings just as much value to the table as each of the other girls. Her endearing personality makes it very easy to forget how truly lethal she is. Every battle scene with Betty takes the reader by surprise – small, but savage. Betty will make them bleed like the rest of them (and enjoy it, too).
The Rat Queens also physically look like women should; they reflect different body types, sizes and colors. They are different races- Dee is black. They are different sizes – Betty is a smidgen. These women aren’t some sexed-up superheroes, they are their own unique characters. You can tell who the character is just by glancing at them, or looking at their silhouette. Little Betty is the most obvious to pick out, just due to her small size. She’s not squat, though – she still has very elegant lines to her. Betty is a woman, just like the rest of them. Hanna is curvier than the other girls (and she flaunts it). Her wider hips and larger breasts give her a voluptuous figure that’s hard to miss. Dee is long and slender and capped with a wild muss of raven-black hair. Violet is broad in a practical, beautiful way. Her thickness gives her the leverage she needs to do damage in a fight.
Take a look at the below example. Violet is not slender-waisted. Her hips, bust and shoulders are all proportionate and thicker! How novel! She’ll be able to kick butt in battle without losing track of her boobs (or fearing they’ll pop out of her outfit). They’ll stay firmly in her shirt, under her armor. Which is where they should be if you’re a woman going out to behead a troll.
Hanna is the most provocatively-dressed Rat Queen (save for Betty’s free-boobin’. You go, girl,) and she totally owns her sexuality. All of the Rat Queens do. Sexuality is very blatant theme and the characters aren’t shamed for who they are or what they want sexually. It’s frustrating that this is a refreshing change of pace – this is how society should just be! Violet wants to go have sex with Orc Dave. Betty is in an on-again, off-again relationship with a non-smidgen woman. The fact that Violet can say “I want to get drunk. I want to get high. I want to have sex with Orc Dave. They can happen in any order or all at once,” and she is not judged for wanting these things is a rare concept. They are not shamed. They are not embarrassed. They do not hide. They want what they want, they like what they like, and they don’t have to apologize. This is such an empowering message in a culture where shaming women for embracing their sexuality is commonplace.
The Rat Queens Volume 1 is like its characters – an individual. It’s unique and rare because of the relatable, complex characters it contains. The characteristics that make up these women – strength, toughness, intelligence, independence, leadership – these are all sorely needed in a world saturated with comic books featuring helpless damsels-in-distress or arm-candy on the arms of superhero men. The Rat Queens are refreshing because they’re the women that everyone deserves to see in comics.