I have a new favorite fantasy comic, and it's Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch's "Rat Queens." Don't let the strange name fool you; it's a book full of violence, mayhem, friendship, secrets, and monsters. Oh, and one of the more charmingly dysfunctional groups of warriors you've seen in a while.
What makes "Rat Queens" #4 work so well is that in many ways these are your goofball friends if they lived in a fantasy world rather than our own. The personalities are all familiar, with strange wisecracks, odd humor, and the occasional put down. But unlike here, when they go on a bender it might result in monsters attacking or worse. But while they all have their differences, Wiebe never loses track of the fact that on some level, they're all friends in "Rat Queens." That's the important difference between this and, say, "Justice League 3000." There's sniping but it's good-natured, and you understand why these four women would stick together.
It doesn't hurt that Wiebe's got a great sense of humor. From mentions of "Old Lady Bernadette" to Betty's whispering of her secrets to Sawyer, there's something that will make you snicker on almost every page. At the same time, though, he doesn't sacrifice drama in favor of comedy. I like that actions have consequences in "Rat Queens," so killing a monster in the first couple of issues can come back to haunt you down the line. This isn't just your average, brainless fantasy epic; instead it's low-down and dirty in places, and there's never an easy break lurking around the corner.
Upchurch's art is new to me, but it's really good. He's able to tackle the big battle scenes well and in a way that's easy to follow, even as he still brings to life the general chaos that would happen in an actual sword fight. He's even better, though, when it comes to the physical comedy. Betty placing her finger on Sawyer's lips and saying, "Shhhhhhh. Secrets," wouldn't be half as funny if it wasn't for the expressions on both of their faces, for instance. And when the first missile hits Palisade? Well, it wouldn't have been half as funny if it wasn't for the way that Betty, Sawyer, and Bernadette's bodies all go flying from the impact. From the billowing skirt to the flopping hair, it's enough to make you involuntarily bark out a laugh or two.
"Rat Queens" #4 makes this book four-for-four, now. It's rare that you find a book that not only is smart and funny, but can also handle a main cast of all female characters that doesn't make a big deal about that fact. It's handled matter-of-factly, with all that really matters is that it's got a strong mix of humor and drama. Check it out.