Review: Rat Queens #15

RatQueens_15-1When the solicitation for Rat Queens #16 went out and showed a cover of the Queens without Hannah, the speculation went wild amongst comic readers about what was happening to everyone’s favorite rockabilly elf mage in issue #15. Was she going to die? Was she getting kicked out? Was she going missing?

Well, the good news is that it was none of those things happen in #15, but the bad news is that it somehow managed to be way worse emotionally.

The third arc of Rat Queens, aptly titled “Demons,” has been less action packed than the previous “The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth” arc, but for good reason. Taking more of a focus on the pasts of the Queens with a specific focus on Hannah, it allowed for the buildup and the blow up of this issue perfectly as Hannah reveals why she was kicked out of Mage University in the first place. Instead of a big battle like the one in Palisade, instead the climax is an argument amongst best friends that leads to misunderstandings and irreparable damage.

And actual deals with demons. It’s still a fantasy comic, after all.

Part of what makes Rat Queens a special comic is how natural the friendship between the four main characters felt and how much it drives a series filled with magic and monsters. For Kurtis Wiebe to write such an intense argument between the Queens that ends with an arrest and Betty just giving up on any hope of getting Hannah back is somehow even more heartbreaking than if he had killed her outright. Even with a demon on the edges, tugging at the strings to prompt the argument, you’re under the impression that he wouldn’t have to really do that much. Sooner or later, this was all going to spill over for them.

The art team of Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain have been the MVPs of this comic since they joined the comic back in issue #11. With a more kinetic approach to posture and expression with Fowler and Bonvillain’s dark and intense color palette, the shift to a more personal story ended up playing off super well in the art change and in spades in this particular issue. From the full-page splash of Hannah staring at herself in the mirror as she makes the decision that drives the rest of the issue and potentially the rest of her story to Betty sobbing as she tries to tell Hannah how much she loves her and wants her to stay with the group. It hurts so bad as someone following their story, but the team pulls off that pain wonderfully.

Speaking of Betty, a lot of this part of the story feels like hers as well. While Hannah has been the focal point for so much of it and for good reason, it’s still Betty who serves as the big heart of the Rat Queens and if I ever have to see her as sad as she is in this issue again when she watches Hannah get taken away, it’ll be too soon.

Rat Queens #15 isn’t a big, dramatic battle with noble sacrifices, but an all too real fallout between best friends that will have greater consequences for the series from here on out. It’s an effective gut punch of a climax that works with the way Wiebe has built the story up until this point. Mixed with Fowler’s heart wrenching art and Bonvillain’s colors and #15 becomes a perfect mix of personal tragedy.

Now that we know the fate of Hannah, the big question now isn’t what happens to her, but rather where does everyone go from here?

Story: Kurtis Wiebe Art: Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review