Writer: Kurtis Wiebe Art: Stjepan Sejic Publisher: Image Comics Release: March 4th, 2015
If you’re a loyal follower of Rat Queens, you’ve probably been waiting somewhere between excitement and apprehension for today’s issue. This week marks both the return of the ongoing story after a five-month hiatus and the debut of new series artist Stjepan Sejic (DEATH VIGIL, SUNSTONE). After losing the original series artist Roc Upchurch for external reasons, Rat Queens fans are desperate to see this silly, irreverent, and heartfelt comic continue to thrive. Let’s dive in and see how it’s holding up with the new team.
When we left the Queens way back in October, Hannah was in the middle of yanking Violet through the veil and out of a touching flashback about her bearded childhood. In fact, most of the issue was focused on the origin of Violet’s rebel streak and it wasn’t until the last couple of pages that we were introduced to the reality: giant tentacle monsters were invading Palisades, and the flashback was a distortion of time caused by their insanity auras. So… there’s that.
I really should have gone back and read the last issue right before I opened up this one, because with the hiatus and the flashbacks, I was pretty confused to start off. I can’t really fault the creative team though, because the hiatus was not planned. Issue #9 opens up with a similar flashback, but this time we’re in Hannah’s childhood. More angst. Jeez, these poor girls have had it rough, and it’s not getting any sunnier now, because the whole town has gone to squid demons and doom-and-gloom. But the Queens have each other, and that’s what counts. Wiebe doesn’t hold anything back in this issue. It’s full of action, snark, intrigue, and heartstrings. Betty gets some super sweet skid time with her dual daggers, Dee and her hubby hit the books (squid monsters are kind of their thing after all), and Hannah finally realizes what’s going on and who’s behind it. The issue ends on a cliffhanger though, so we’ll have to wait to see how it all plays out.
Now the real question: how did Sejic’s art hold up? If you’ve read any of his other work, you know that Sejic was pretty well-suited to take over this title, and they’ve been teasing his character sketches for months. It helps that his other title, Death Vigil, just so happens to be about tentacle demons as well. Go figure. Now that issue #9 is out there in the world, I think it’s safe to say that Rat Queens is in good hands. Sejic’s style matches the mood of Rat Queens and while the difference in line art and coloring is noticeable, it’s familiar enough for a fair transition. Sejic’s art is more loose and sketchy, but his colors are rich and layered. His bodies are drawn less stylized than what we’ve seen of Dee’s larger than life hair and Violet’s squat, dwarfy hips, but the Queens still look like the Queens. My only real complaint about his work in this issue is that some of the backgrounds seem hastily drawn. Sometimes they are blurred out in favor of foreground action and that’s fine, but when you have wonderfully detailed backgrounds like the scene with Hannah’s mother, it’s harder to excuse.
Overall, this is a strong transition issue. My biggest concern with Sejic was not in his ability as an artist (Death Vigil is one of my favorites) but in how well his style would match the Rat Queens vibe. It’ll take a few issues before I’m totally comfortable with the change, but he’s gotten the book over this hiatus hurdle and I’m definitely buying the next one. I do miss Dee’s outrageous hair, though.