With the upcoming release of volume 3, I saw it fitting to dedicate this post to talk about a comic series that has captivated me not only on a personal but an academic level. I am of course talking about the biggest badassess ever known to inhabit Palisade: the Rat Queens!!
Since 2010 Image Comics has been in a roll of good releases, more innovative, fascinating and generally speaking, “New” in comparison with the other two titans ( DC & Marvel). Saga, Wyches, Pretty Deadly, East of West, The Wicked and the Divine, Monstress, etc,etc. Image Comics is Booming with fresh content. And Rat Queens is just another example. I mean we are talking of such a radical success since its release in 2013 that there have even been discussions to adapt the series to a cartoon for TV. What else you want?!?!
In any case, I have mentioned the Queens have grabbed my interest even within my academic career. My research involves comic book studies, reception and cultural theory, and funny that, gender too. Just a couple of weeks back, I gave a talk at the University of Winchester (UK) regarding the Rat Queens, as well as RWBY -which I’ve spoken about already- and Orphan Black -which we will speak about in the future-. My talk concerned these new narratives using female outcasts as empowering members of society. Which is exactly what Hannah, Dee, Violet and Betty are about.
My first impression while ploughing through vol.1 was “wow someone has been watching me and use my life experience, dreams and fears, then turn them into a comic!!!!”…It was a bit unreal how much I could relate to these girls – family issues aside, my family is great! But apart from that, part of me couldn’t help but see the similarities. I think I fell in love first with Betty – it’s difficult not to. She had the kindest heart and best intentions, perhaps sometimes misguided, but aren’t we all? As a joke back at home my dad calls me the Gnome Queen (I am quite petite and short with fair hair, lil bit pointy ears). And my gaming friends know I make the best rogue bard in the ‘verse. Making friends with Betty was expected, almost.
Then, the rest came along. I think Dee was next: she is the level headed, someone has to and the rest are most certainly not. Dee is cautious and thoughtful. Always knowing when to stop, when things have gone too far. She is clever, she knows her stuff. In a way, Dee is the sensible adult you wish you could be one day. But obviously, it’s not that easy – with great power comes great responsibility and all that. And being a reluctant follower of a Chtulu like cult is a lot to take in. Particularly when you don’t believe in it. Dee in many ways represents the pressure of the wisdom of ages, the need to not believe everything you’ve been taught, while understanding that tradition, the system, is sometimes there for a reason. Vol. 2 has very powerful messages about tradition, respect and tolerance hidden under all the overwhelming violence. It is that respect and tolerance that drives the Rat Queens, to find their place in the world.
And some have figured it out already, like Violet. First impressions from this courageous and mighty dwarf was that she knew exactly who she was and what she was doing here in Palisade, and with her life in general. I mean Violet’s decisions about her life are simply too heavy to be undone. She knows there is no coming back, her legacy as the daughter of a dwarven Lord is over due to her transgressions to be who she is. Call her hipster if you may, but Vi has come a long way and will only accept marching forward. That is what makes her the perfect leader for the bunch. She understands struggle and battle. She has no regrets, you can’t afford them in the battlefield. But sometimes it is difficult to discern if her actions are performed because it is the best outcome or simply because she can. And that causes trouble. Double that up if you throw Hannah in the mix.
We all knew, from moment one, from the very first page that Hannah was trouble, though perhaps we did not understand to what degree. C’mon, no elf that praises themselves to be a good guy performs necromancy. No good girl dates the captain of the guard of the city where you promote endless havoc. Particularly not with the knowledge that he once belonged in a dangerous gang of assansins…Hannah is the chaotic force of the group.She has an attitude that speaks miles ahead of her, she is loud, arrogant, unsubtle and reckless. She is a big personality and the escape goat for her team. The amount of times she just takes it for the team while giving everyone else the middle finger…I think I lost count. And this really keeps them together. Unlike Violet Hannah is not leader by default but by need. Sure, this brings them head to head more often than not, and sure not all her decisions, or Violet’s are always for the best of the team. But they both recognise their mistakes and attempt to rectify them. So one can relate to Hannah? I mean in many ways she is just the opposite of all of them. Yet Hannah is perhaps the most relatable of them all. Hannah reminds us all that everyone has a past, and secrets. Hannah stands up for the outcast in all of us, for the people society as a whole chooses to ignore, for those who can’t conform but try to, for those who will never belong, for those who will always be lingering in the margins of society. Hannah is your driver through the pages as you experience anger, frustration, despair, fear and failure.
But it is not all so bleak. Sure it ain’t always pretty, but at the end of the day they stand together and overcome these problems. The Rat Queens remind us that even the odd ones out, are never alone. They are twisted, more modern versions of the heroes of old – never giving up, always up to the task despite any issues.
Now we await for the third volume to be released and see what has come of this hardcore party of adventurers. There have been few rumours cropping up the net in the last few months. It seems that this time around we shall be ready for an even rougher rollercoaster, for a traitor may be within…I honestly cannot predict how this will come about. I can expect it from all the characters for different reasons. But if I have learnt something from the Queens is not to judge before I read for these girls sure always have something up their sleeve.
Will Dee manage to keep it together or be driven to insanity? Will Hannah go on an endless rampage and be through? Perhaps Violet’s ego will finally get out of the rails, or maybe Betty’s innocence is nothing else but a cover up. Whatever is the case, regardless of the outcome, I can’t wait to find out.