Potential is a funny thing. A lot of interest gets heaped onto a new series oftentimes simply because it is new. Number 1 issues get a lot of attention and praise based mostly on the potential for the series instead of what the book has actually done. Creators put their best foot forward, naturally, but in my never humble opinion, the first issue after the first main arc tells more about a series’ potential than anything. In issue 6 of Rat Queens, the creative team (Kurtis J. Wiebe, writer; Roc Upchurch, art; Ed Brisson, letters) delivered a book which truly acts on all of the potential they have displayed in the first five issues.
The first main story arc is over, the adventure is over, and issue 6 picks up the day after the Rat Queens’ rowdy celebration. The bulk of the issue is driven by Wiebe and Upchurch’s excellent characterizations of this quartet. Whereas we readers haven’t been around the Rat Queens very long this irreverent foursome feels like a gang with a long and rich set of shared experiences. The dialog is sharp, snappy, and not overly precious. Wiebe has achieved a balance of “real world” characters in a fantasy setting that I don’t see outside of Brian K. Vaughn’s work in Saga. There isn’t much “action” in Rat Queens #6 but the interesting character dynamics and banter are more than enough to propel this book forward. Sure, they also lay the groundwork for the next big story and the final page is quite the reveal, but if you removed those elements of this comic and replaced them with more of the Rat Queens sitting around the breakfast table and talking I’d still be excited to read it.
My brain always gravitates towards the story and the characters but please don’t take that as a slight against Roc Upchurch’s art (drawing, colours, covers, the whole ball of wax). Upchurch’s panel perspectives keep changing in an engaging but not fussy way and his nuanced poses of the characters adds to the realistic nature of the writing. None of the Queens lack for appropriate and relevant expressions and poses no matter the situation. On page three, Hannah’s postures simultaneously show her attempting to shrug off last night while still retaining a “walk of shame” insecurity. Each character is shown the same amount of detail and attention which makes the city of Palisades even more real despite the dwarves, elves, magicians, and mushroom people.
The spaces between major arcs is vitally important to ongoing books. If the world and characters aren’t interesting enough to sustain a book on its own, how are readers going to care about any grander stories told with those characters? Rat Queens could have been a five-and-done series and I would have been happy. Issue 6 exceeds expectations on all fronts and I am thrilled. Long live Rat Queens!