Graphic Novel Reviews: Rat Queens Vol. 2 and Low Vol. 1

Rat Queens Vol. 2 CoverRat Queens Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth

Author & Illustrator: Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stejpan Sejic

Publisher: Image Comics on May 19, 2015

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

My thanks to Image Comics and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

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This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.

Collects RAT QUEENS #6-10

Volume 2 picks off right after the events of Volume 1, with the Rat Queens and their various partners recovering from a night of debauchery in celebration of their victories. Of course, things are never calm for long in the town of Pallisade so shit immediately hits the fan. While action-packed, RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 doesn’t sacrifice character development for plot. In fact, I though that the character arcs actually outshone the plot in some parts.

Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stejpan Sejic delve into the pasts of the Rat Queens, giving us insight into their respective quirks. Violet’s story arc of coming into her own and defining for herself what it means to be a dwarf woman is seriously inspiring. Her flashbacks to when she first took charge of her own identity had me saying “HELL YES” – out loud – multiple times. As awesome as Violet is, Hannah is clearly the star of the show. The mage has the most dialogue and general page space of all the Ray Queens, so I guess it’s not surprising that she has the most compelling back-story thus far. Her heritage, her magic usage, her emotional baggage…well. In the words of Mean Girls: that’s why her hair’s so big, it’s full of secrets!

Image: Kurtis J. Wiebe & Stejpan Sejic
Image: Kurtis J. Wiebe & Stejpan Sejic

In this panel, we witness Hannah delivering some much-deserved sass in the face of some obscure fantastical terminology. Hannah, you don’t even know how many times I’ve wanted to say something similar. I mean, what is the Haruspex Requiem? Read RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 to find out!

Dee, wayward cleric of the god N’rygoth, remains my favourite. What can I say? I love a bookworm who can kick some serious ass. I look forward to a more fleshed-out character arc for Betty, since she’s the least-developed so far. Her drug and candy fuelled antics are hilarious, but they don’t really add much to the story.

I admit that I was concerned when I learned that there would be a change in artist for this volume but I completely understand why it happened (Roc Upchurch was removed from the project after he was arrested for domestic abuse, here’s Kurits J. Wiebe’s statement on the matter if you’re interested).

There was clearly no cause for alarm, because Sejic admirably steps up to the plate with style and verve. He beautifully maintains the high quality of the series’ artwork while infusing it with his own unique style. I am now a dedicated Stejpan Sejic fan, and I’ll definitely be checking the other comics he’s illustrated!

I’ve bought a copy for myself, and two others for friends. Can’t recommend RAT QUEENS highly enough.

Low Vol. 1 CoverLow Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope

Author & Illustrator: Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini

Publisher: Image Comics on March 28, 2015

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

My thanks to Image Comics and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

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Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope. Dive into an aquatic fantasy like none you’ve ever seen before, as writer Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Uncanny Avengers) and artist Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime) bring you a tale mankind’s final hour in the cold, deathly dark of the sea.

Collects LOW #1-6

LOW VOL. 1: THE DELIRIUM OF HOPE is actully my first Rick Remender comic, if you can believe it. Remender is well known and widely respected for his work on a multitude of projects, including the fan favourite DEADLY CLASS (which is on my TBR). While Remender & co. didn’t completely blow me away with this one, there was a lot to like about it.

The plot is a little convoluted, especially in the first few pages, but it straightened itself out by the end of the volume. I really liked the fact that two teenage girls are tasked with learning how to pilot a ship and save the human race, such as it is. That duty is familial, so the sisters are instructed by their father. Themes of family, hope, and loss are abundant and somewhat heavy-handed. Remender also use the word “low” as a motif, repeating it frequently to drive home the fact that yes, life in this universe is pretty awful.

Not going to lie to you, the tone of this one is pretty damn grim. There’s a reason it’s called “the delirium of hope” – because the world in LOW VOL. 1 is so terrible and fraught with danger that it’s practically delusional to hope for anything better. Maybe it was the comic, maybe it was me, but the sheer bleakness of it all was a little too much for me to handle.

Image: Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini
Image: Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

Grech Tocchini’s art style was interesting as well, very beautiful and colourful. The dystopian world was very strongly represented and evocative, with an unexpected amount of whimsy. But at times his work felt a little vague and lacked detail – people’s bodies were often done in kind of a ‘sketched’ style rather than fully realized. Although this was clearly a deliberate stylistic choice (and I’m not art critic!), I prefer detailed characters in a graphic novel. Characters’ facial expressions make or break the artwork for me and this go around they were more or less absent.

Overall a unique and interesting storyline, if a little shaky. Despite my gripes I will definitely be checking out Vol. 2 when it releases.

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  • I still need to read Rat Queens vol 2 (but the graphic novel is in my hands!!! I just need to find a nice afternoon where I have some time free to read it all in one go – hard to do these days). Interesting find with Low – not one I’ve heard before now, but I’m definitely intrigued by your review.

    ~Mogsy

    • You’re gonna love it, Mogsy! The series continues to impress. Yeah, sneaking away for an hour or two can definitely get tough – especially in the summer when kids are home from school! Good luck with it, hopefully you can steal some reading time. 🙂

  • Lynn Williams

    I hadn’t heard of Rat Queen’s until it popped up over on the Bibliosanctum – and here it is on your blog too! I do like the look of it. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels but perhaps I should make an exception for this one.
    Lynn 😀

    • Ooooh I think you’d really like this one, Lynn! It’s got that epic fantasy vibe that you like, but instead of the traditional group of motley guys on a series of quests, it’s a bunch of badass ladies. Ladies who drink a lot, haha. Very funny stuff!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I’m thinking I should check out Rat Queens sometime 🙂 In my copious free time 😉

    • Haha, free time? What is this thing you call free time?! If you can wrangle some time for it, I definitely recommend Rat Queens. 🙂

  • I’ve been meaning to start Rat Queens, so now I am extra excited to do so. It does seem a bit unusual for the artist to change, but I guess they didn’t really have a choice! Good thing you approve of the new artist:-)

    • I know, it was all very scandalous and dramatic in the comic book world for a second there! But kinda hard to argue with the logic behind that one. The series is really fun and clever, but I will warn you that there’s some pretty crass humour – I know sometimes you’re not a big fan of that. Hopefully you like the Rat Queens and their adventures!