Tag Archives: comics

Avidas, Readers! Spotlight on The Return of Rat Queens

For the past two years, I have been an absolute regular at my local comic store. They know my name, and pretty much the exact time I come in each week. Usually they have my comics already set aside for me, and they know my tastes as well, or even better, than I do when it comes to picking out new titles. They are really some of the most amazing people I have the opportunity to know. They, as much as the books I read, are why I love my weekly experience, and look forward the chance to chat and catch up with them.

This week I am extremely excited to go for my weekly pick up on Wednesday, as I know that there will be something very special waiting for me. Something that I have giddily been anticipating.

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Illustration by Stjepan Sejic

March 1st, 2017, marks the relaunch of Rat Queens, with a new number one, a new arc , and a new artist at the helm. Rat Queens is a series that focuses largely on a party of female adventurers. However, instead of feeling like something pulled from the pages of Dragon Magazine or Dragon Lance, the Rat Queens definitely feels more like a group of very close friends, sitting around a table and playing an honest to goodness game of Dungeons and Dragons, no holds barred; meaning it is rife with foul language, sex, drugs, ridiculous conflict resolution, and just a shit load of absolute crazy. The four main characters, all females, are exciting characters, and their pasts and presents thrilling and engaging. In the sea of super heroes and scantily clad women of fantasy, Rat Queens provides a breath of fresh air for the genre. As Image Comics is fairly creator run when it comes to story and content, it offers some truly inspired and entertaining series, featuring powerful women who are no longer just the arm candy or the damsels in distress, or even token members of a cast.

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Personally, I am a fan of Hannah, the foul-mouthed, dark magic welding mage (Elf? Pact born? Still so much to know about her, though she is currently defined as ‘elf’ on the wiki page), as well as Dee, the former cultist cleric who both kicks ass and saves it. Maybe it is because these two resonate with the types of characters I like to play. Either way, I absolutely loves the first fun, and still fondly page through the previous columns when I get the chance.

Written by Kurtis Wiebe, this series has been one of the shining lights of my collection, and a series that I recommend (and force) on all my friends.

Now, this is a relaunch of the series with a brand new number one. In the previous run, writer Kurtis Wiebe ran into a few issues with artists, including deciding to take Roc Upchurch out of the position due to an arrest for spousal battery ( according to an interview, Wiebe states that the decision was made because it didn’t make sense to have that kind of baggage going on with a series of strong female characters and views), short turn over, and ‘creative differences’ ( thought some of the events surrounding the parting with the last series artist remain a little hazy). This eventually led to a hiatus, with a mid story arc drop off.

For this new birth of the series, Wiebe has teamed up with artist Owen Gieni, who in my option is absolutely astounding, both as an artist and an individual. Gieni’s other series include Shutter and Manifest Destiny, both of which I would recommend. I have the luck to meet both Wiebe and Gieni in September 2016, when they attended that Saskatoon Entertainment Expo, and I spent a fair bit of my time fan-girling between their tables and the line up to meet Carrie Fisher.

As with any relaunch of a series, there is always a little bit of hesitance to immediately pick up an issue. Anyone who has been reading comics or graphic novels knows that sometimes a relaunch of a title is worse than simply letting it fade away. Take both Marvel and DC, who have revamped and relaunched some of their major titles so often that there’s an absolute spider web of ‘continuity’, and often gaps that leave the reader wondering which past is relevant and which can be left aside. From what had been put out there in regard to this relaunch, I am quite certain that this will not be the case with Rat Queens.

Wiebe, Gieni, and a host of other comics creators have lent their hands to the relaunch of the series, putting out weekly additional content in the form of comic shorts (My personal favourite is by Stjepah Sejic, best known for insanely beautiful artwork, comics, and Sunstonewhich just wrapped its 5 book arc this January). All of that additional content can either be found on Wiebe’s web page, or Gieni’s Twitter ( @owengieni), as the prep for the imminent launch date. Up until launch day, Wiebe and Owen are celebrating the 12 days of Queensmas, showcasing a new piece of art each day. These only serve to make it even more difficult to wait to pick up that first issue this Wednesday.

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The creators have said that the relaunch of Rat Queens will be a pick up, rather than a complete revamping of the mythos and lore of the series. Hannah will still be brooding, mysterious, and likely using magic that she probably should not be. Dee and Violet will bring the hurt. Betty will, of course, bring the mischievousness and the drugs. It is also my hopes that The Dave’s will be back and more ready than ever to Dave it up. Some of the promotional content has also hinted at the fact that there may even be a new member, the impressive Braga. With the promises that have been leaking from the helm team of Rat Queens, this is going to be something that every fan, new and old, will enjoy.

With Wiebe continuing to write the series, and with Owen Gieni as the main artist, this is a relaunch that I am absolutely psyched up for. With Wiebe’s ability to write strong, motivated female characters who leap of the page, and Gieni’s talent with colours and drawing the eye across the story, the world of the Rat Queens will once again come alive.

If you are a fan of the series and were saddened by the hiatus and the break off of the previous story, or a fan of other work by Owen Gieni or Kurtis Wiebe, I would encourage you to get to your local comic book store and pick up the first issue when is comes out, March 1st, 2017.

Beware N’rygoth, happy reading, and Sidas,

Megan

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Last Thursday Review: Locke & Key Small World

SPOILER WARNING: Be mindful, there may be spoilers here. Turn back if you are as eager to read this graphic novel without and poor knowledge of the content,

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Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

When I first stumbled on Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key in my local comic store, I wasn’t sure what to think, aside from the fact that the first couple of pages were interesting enough to warrant that I would spend my hard-earned money on it. At the time, going to school full-time for an undergraduate degree and working in a video store, I was rather tight about how I spent my little bit of cash.

But that day, I went home with a winner that would quite literally become one of the few collections that I was hooked on enough, at the time, to go out and buy immediately, no matter what was in my bank account or where I was working.

Now, in 2017, Hill and Rodriquez have tempted those who fell in love with the twisted history of Key House and Lovecraft, with another shiny hardcover, Locke and Key: Small World. As far as size goes, this column does feel quite short, clocking in at under 25 pages of comic. So, rather than a full size story, the reader is greater with what feels like a single issue of a comic, sweetened with a few extras (art, original script, adaptation views, and interviews). All in all, it barely sates the appetite for new content that fans of the series (such as myself) have been craving since the end of the original series. However, in the contained interview, Hill and Rodriguez promise that there are more stories to come entering around these characters, Key House, and Lovecraft. So far, this seems limited to some short stories and collections, with the speculation of another six arc story (no commitment to that as of yet, it seems to just be an idea.) They also promise that the long-awaited television series with IDW Entertainment is still on the table.

The story itself is currently self-contained, taking you through a single experience by some of the Locke ancestors. The art, as always, is beautifully rendered, the detail excellent and the colour vivid.

Despite this, I found that the story itself was somewhat lacking. As a current ‘stand alone’ tale, Small World is just that, small. Where previously readers were drawn in to Bode, Tyler, and Kinsey, and thrown right into the darkness within the first 5 pages of Welcome to LovecraftSmall World does not seem to lend itself to the same connection of character to reader. The Locke children seem quite cookie cutter. It seems as if a bit of connection was sacrificed in order to keep the story short and sweet. They are mapped on the page with care, but there seems to be pieces missing where the reader is supposed to feel for them. Each is most definitely individual, but aside from the stereotypical archetypes (the little lady, the trouble maker, the sage, and the fighter), there wasn’t much that seemed to make them a part of Locke and Key save for the fact that they are cast as part of the long line of Lockes to live in Keyhouse. At times, aside from the name and a double page decimated to introducing the readers to the new (or older) Locke family, it seems as if it could have been anyone waltzing across the page in the rolls.

The story, as said earlier, is linear. There are no flash backs, no flash forwards, and the whole tale seems to take place over perhaps the entirety of 3 hours, with very little fanfare, and even less exploitation of the previous dark atmosphere created by Hill and Rodriguez. The threat is quite mundane, only made a threat by the mishandling of a key. There is very little anxiety created by the monster that shows up, and the end is abrupt (though personally, I definitely grinned just a bit, because it was totally something that felt in tune with the level of threat created). Maybe this is because the family is not dealing , or has not yet dealt, with the true nature and breadth of what lies buried under Keyhouse, and as such the level of threat cannot reasonably be presented on the same scale.

There is one bit of the story that did have me perplexed, and that had to do with the previously established idea that one someone grows up in Keyhouse, they forget the magic of the keys, because the adult mind simply can’t handle what those keys mean. In this volume, three adults, all Locke’s, actively and knowingly engage in episodes with they key items. We know that Randell Locke, and even Ellie Whedon, forgot about the keys once they became adults (Ellie being a bit of an exception later on, as we learn that she has been manipulated). However, in this short story, not only do the adults know about the keys, but one actively created a new key as a ‘birthday present’ to teach his daughter how to manage a house, but another actively utilizes the Shadow Crown to tell stories. Now, there could be a reason for that, but I felt that the establishment that only the young could understand, use, and see the power of the keys was an integral part of those whole story, and that going back on it seems a little heavy-handed for such a finely crafted story.

All in all, Locke and Key Small World was a decent return to the world that Hill and Rodriguez built, and it could be a promising connection to another series in that same world. However, it does have its pitfalls. Value wise, it seemed a bit much to through such a small story into hardcover. I know it has been done before, but it seems like they are leaving the world and the story out there to float on its own, without any truly secure mooring. The beauty of the art fills in where the story falls flat, but there are holes that were overlooked. I hope that when Hill and Rodriguez return again to this generation of Locke’s, they will be able to bring back more of the thrill and imagination that existed in the original series.

3.5/5 for me, all things considered. Still feels right to have in on the shelf next to the other hardcover editions of the series. but, for something that was announced with a fair bit of hype in June 2016, it seems fairly scanty on the delivery.

Order Locke & Key Small World

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