Rat Queens, Vol. 4: High Fantasies by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I wasn't sure what to make of this volume at first. I've since done some research and discovered that this is a "soft reboot" of the Rat Queens storyline by Kurtis J. Wiebe and new artist Owen Gieni, after controversy with the previous artists. (Short version: Original artist Roc Upchurch was arrested for domestic violence and dropped; replacement artist Tess Fowler, brought in for Vol. 3, left acrimoniously amid accusations that Wiebe tried to bring Upchurch back.) A hiatus ensued following all this drama, but now the Queens are back with a reset and a new Queen, the transgender orc Braga.
Unfortunately, all this ignores the storyline and cliffhanger of Vol. 3, "Demons," wherein Hannah goes to Mage University, which expelled her five years earlier, to try and save her father. She's revealed to be a half-demon who staged a massacre, the Queens are broken up, and Hannah is thrown into a "void prison" from which she's rescued by the demon who is evidently her biological father, and whose power she channeled long ago. It's heavily implied that Hannah has turned completely dark.
But in this volume, the Queens are back in Palisade with their new member Braga, and going on their regular questing adventures. The story has been retconned to the point where Hannah's stepfather Gerard, who was stated to have been executed in "Demons," is hale and hearty and screwing the ghost of Hannah's mother. I've read interviews where Kurtis J. Wiebe is claiming that everything that happened in "Demons" is still canon and all will be explained. I hope so, because my patience is running pretty short.
But just taking this volume on its own, it's not up to previous standards. Owen Gieni's artwork is just...lacking, with Violet suffering in particular. (If there had to be another artist, I wish they had gone back to Stjepan Sejic, who did the best job of picking up where Roc Upchurch left off.) This storyline is weaker, with the exception of the delightful Braga, and the whole thing feels off-kilter and disjointed. I might let Wiebe and company coast for a while because I liked the earlier volumes so much, but if they don't get their act together...well, there's plenty of other stuff to read, after all.
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