Volume 2, Issue 1 begins with the Rat Queens waking up the morning after a massive party. Humans, solo cups, and water melons litter the lawn while a blazing couch sends up smoke in the distance. The Rat Queens have been reunited and they’re ready for adventure. They meet up with Braga who they invite to become an official member of the Rat Queens (Braga delightedly accepts) and we learn that the Queens have been hired to investigate some recent deaths just outside of Palisade.
After some walking the Rat Queens come upon a deserted tower. They decide to search the tower for clues and, hearing a shout, they barge inside expecting to find the culprits. Much to their surprise the Rat Queens are met not by murderers or beasts but by Violet’s twin brother, Barrie, who has assembled his own motley crew of mercenaries: the Cat Kings! Barrie eagerly shows off his team which comprises of Zestrum (the retired mage and Elvis look-alike), Neil (the “fun guy” with mushroom fingers), and Buddy (the walking mushroom creature with googly eyes).
The Rat Queens are connecting with their Cat King counterparts when a giant goose comes crashing through the ceiling. While the Cat Kings cower in fear, the Rat Queens jump to action. Unfortunately, Betty is swallowed by the beast and the issue ends with her meeting Milton the Gut Merchant in a pool of stomach acid.
Volume 2, Issue 1 starts with the Rat Queens clinging to the goose monster as it flies away. Betty recovers her daggers from the gut merchant and uses them to hack her way out of the goose belly, and the bird crashes to the ground in pain. Barrie pokes his sword in the goose monster’s head for the kill and he and Violet squabble over who deserves the prize money, finally agreeing that the Cat Kings will accept food and beer as payment.
When the two crews return to town we learn that Palisade is still in ruins from the squid monsters that were unleashed from the sky in a prior story arc. A significant number of people stand around town with their eyes looking to the sky, dressed in purple robes with squid insignias, arms crossed in a prayer-like X across their chests. Among them is Dave, Violet’s romantic interest from prior issues, as well as Bernadette, the woman tortured by Gerrig while he used the Haruspex Requiem to unleash squid beasts. We learn that the purple-clad cult has been attacking anyone who attempts to rebuild the town and that all the adventuring crews have either disbanded or left.
After enough drinks, the Rat Queens head to a park where Hannah drunkenly succeeds in raising the dead. They run for their lives and the issue ends with us meeting a new band of adventurers who will hopefully save the day (er… night).
After nearly a year-long hiatus, Rat Queens is back. This “soft reboot” introduces a new story arc along with a new artist who takes on both art and colors (hi, Owen Gieni!). These reboot issues are being sold as “Rat Queens, Vol. 2” and Issue 1 hit shelves March 16. (Note that the second trade paperback of Rat Queens is also called “Rat Queens, Volume 2.” I’ll do my best to be explicit when referencing trade Volume 2 instead of the series Vol. 2).
The first thing to capture my attention from the Rat Queens reboot was the artwork. In a series that has undergone multiple major changes in artistry, Gieni had a tough role to figure out, but figure it out he did. His coloring is reminiscent of the earlier Rat Queens and indicates to the reader, before even reading, that the reboot aims to return Rat Queens to the good old days. Kudos to Gieni for bringing the series back to its original look and feel while still adding enough details to make the art his own. Here’s to hoping that his partnership with the series lasts.
Author Kurtis J. Wiebe conveniently offers no resolution to the cliffhangers left at the start of last year’s hiatus, and I can’t decide whether this is for better or worse (recall that Issue 16 ends with Hannah and her stepfather Gerard still imprisoned at Mage University with the rest of the Rat Queens having returned to Palisade). It does sound like Wiebe plans to answer some questions as the new arc progresses, though, and I hope that he succeeds in answering more questions than he creates.
So far the reboot does a good job of setting up a new storyline while connecting with the old (“old” being the storyline prior to trade Volume 3). Palisade is trying to rebuild after destruction seen in previous arcs; a cult seems to have emerged from the events surrounding the squid beasts; Bernadette reminds Dee that she’s no longer just Dee; and so on. Wiebe does a good job setting up the series for action, and I’m cautiously hopeful that Rat Queens will return to its glory days.
-- K Spasaro | NCR