December 9, 2023

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Comic Review: Rat Queens Volume 5

The Rat Queens at some point between volumes rescued their friend and teammate Hannah from a magical prison. How did they pull that off again?

At the end of the third volume of the Image Comics series Rat Queens, adventure team member Hannah was sentenced to a magic prison for various crimes she committed against Mage University.  In the beginning of the fourth volume, Hannah is hanging around with the others after what looks like a time jump with little to no explanation on what happened in between trades.  How did Hannah get out of prison, especially when the third volume seemed to end with the other three Rat Queens sailing off to…somewhere.

Volume 5, subtitled The Colossal Magic Nothing, attempts to answer that question.

After a brief, barely connected one-off about the gentle guy known as Orc Dave, we get back to Palisade and the Rat Queens, doing more adventuring and bickering as always.  But there’s a mysterious force in the air, something that comes to people when they are at their lowest and offering them a way out.  This force in the form of a robed human-shaped figure then, well, erases that person.  And I don’t just mean the person disappears.  The person basically ceases to exist at all, with no one having any memory of that person existing up until then with one noteworthy exception.

Yes, for reasons that somehow may or may not be explained, Betty the smidgen thief seems to remember people, most likely because she never met a drug she didn’t like and that somehow gives her special insight into people who aren’t where they used to be and possibly because she’s someone who actually has no regrets for the force to seemingly prey on.  That becomes a bit of a problem for Betty as none of the other Queens believe her even as they start disappearing as well.

So, writer Kurtis J. Wiebe tried to explain how Hannah got out of that void, and the explanation made sense to me but was hardly the most straightforward explanation possible.  My biggest concern with Rat Queens has always been the series seems to spend most of its focus on Hannah at the expense of Betty, Violet, Dee, and Braga.  This volume recifies that somewhat as artist Owen Gieni does some interesting stuff in having various sections look like they were the product of distinctively different drawing styles, like a 30s cartoon or the long-running fantasy comic series Elfquest.  And while much of this volume still spends a lot of focus on Hannah, this may be a bit more of an arc about Betty.  Yes, Dee also gets a bit of the spotlight, but this is Betty’s story and the one that digs deepest into who she is, what she believes, and how she got to this point.  But the actual explanation for Hannah’s escape from magic prison is a bit crazy, and I am a bit concerned that it is going to be a bit more than Wiebe intended to bite off all at once.  The end result is this volume didn’t work as well for me.  It started off as a rather fun and standard Rat Queens trade before going in a really weird direction, especially since I think Wiebe skipped an explanation or two along the way.  7.5 out of 10 orc procreation secrets.