Published on March 4th, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee0
Rat Queens #9 Review
Just looking at the cover for Rat Queens #9, there is a sense of satisfaction after the long wait that followed the release of #8. Even counting the brilliant Braga issue, which came in smiling and smashing at the midpoint to shake up the lull in story pacing, Rat Queens #9 feels long awaited, jumping right back into the fray of the ongoing calamity that began those few months ago. As a brief reminder, Palasade has been overrun by tentacled monsters of arcane nightmare; meanwhile, entering back into the story, we’re met by a vision into the past, a continuation of origin stories as seen in issues previously.
In this introduction to the story, Hannah’s gorgeously defiant mother reacts to getting put down by a supercilious shopkeeper before comforting her daughter accused by the towns-kids of being a “demon baby”. The question of acceptance, or rather the rejection of seeking acceptance has been a large concern in this comic, first of all in not apologising for being a comic about gleefully violent, unashamedly unpleasant and sexually open women. Hannah’s mother continues to encourage this trend as she urges her daughter to take pride in the outsider’s label given to her rather than reassuring Hannah that she is not a “demon baby”, but a respectable, unblemished child able to engage in wholesome play. Instead, the message is that demon babies are fun to play with and that difference is stimulating even if there are others that would decry it. Unfortunately, the difference that comes with being Vizari leads to Hannah’s mother’s execution occurring right in front of her.
Dragged from the memory of her mother’s death, Hannah wakes up in the aftermath of their assault on the tentacle monsters. It seems looking into the monsters eyes brings forth visions and memories, like Hannah’s next vision of having sex with Sawyer in an open field, beneath a purple sky of stars. The scene comes off as we can imagine Hannah remembers it: as a humourous, engaged look at a distractingly pleasant moment until she forces herself back into reality. Which brings up the sense of invasion the monsters are reaping upon a very private, protected mind. Both of these scenes would presumably otherwise not be for our eyes and Hannah would rather remain an elusive character, as standoffish with her audience as she is with other characters in the story. History and privacy are further themes evoked by this second volume of Rat Queens, and a sense of trust with whom you share your past with, as seen through Violet, Braga and now Hannah. There’s a closeness and an intimacy that the creators are inviting their audience to share in with these comics.
As the team then regroups, the action starts to pick back up from last issue. There’s a beautiful inversion as Hannah leads her companions to Sawyer’s rescue, with him strung up like a damsel in distress, naked and exposed. The anger and aggression in Hannah’s eyes in her promise to rescue him is particularly powerful and challenging. Then the battle and violence erupts again and carries through until the end of the comic, pausing on moments of tension like the blood splattered on Betty’s face. The scene runs quickly, with an epicness, against the backdrop of thunder-clouds overtaking the sky. Then ends all too suddenly with readers’ expectations at their peak; an excellent manipulation of space, timing and emotion cutting across panels in the final moment. There are a lot of comics that end on cliff-hangers but not so many that do it with as much passion and anticipation as this one.
But before we end, I want to talk about Stjepan Sejic’s art because, seriously, how can you not? It is gorgeous! From the very beginning I noticed the detailing reminiscent of Death Vigil and noted how perfect his style was for the fantasy and occultism of this comic. Second to that is his ability to capture faces; I was in love with Hannah’s mother the instant I caught sight of her long face and wry, narrow eyes. She was beautiful and full of untapped personality, and I was devastated when she was taken from us. But her features live on in Hannah, whom I then followed with greater attention and investment as she envisions a second moment with someone she loves, seeks out her closest friends amongst the chaos and then goes in search of Sawyer. Meanwhile, the tones are so complementary to the mysticism of the story and the conjoined emotions of both pain and love.
I am so in love with this comic and I think Sejic’s art brings that to the full, not that I didn’t love it before but now I stare at it with added awe. I can’t deny that he’s a favourite of mine, and to see his art contributing to one of my favourite comics by a writer I’m ever increasingly impressed by is just amazing. Now, is this the most complimentary review I’ve written thus far? Am I gushing a little? If I am I don’t care. This comic deserves it. I wish I could paint the walls of my room with its panels.