Best Shots Advance Reviews: POWERPUFF GIRLS, RAT QUEENS #1

Rat Queens
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: IDW

Powerpuff Girls #1
Written and Illustrated by Troy Little
Lettering by Neil Uyetake and Troy Little
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

What's a mix of sugar and spice and at least a little bit nice? IDW's new Powerpuff Girls comic. And that's a tall order already - given this franchise's history as a beloved cartoon, there are a few growing pains in Powerpuff Girls' transition to serialized comics. Still, Troy Little manages to capture enough of the spirit of the show to make this a decent read for Powerpuff fans young and old.

This opening issue is at its best when it embraces the goofy, self-contained spirit of the TV show - while Troy Little doesn't have the voice acting or animated timing to sell the usual humor of Powerpuff Girls, he does distill some of the absurdity that helped define the show. Not only do we get to see simian mastermind Mojo Jojo, but watching the girls spout off puns as they beat down a "swamp thing" wreaking havoc on a golf course is quite chuckle-worthy.

Little also nails the visual aesthetic perfectly - the Powerpuff Girls are completely on-model, and he does a great job at conveying the expressiveness of the original show. (Particularly when the usually sweet Bubbles finally loses her cool. Brrrr. Scary.) Even the smaller moments, like the awkward pause when the girls aren't impressed with Mojo Jojo's latest scheme, is a great laugh-out-loud moment in the book.

That all said, this series also brings up an interesting question - should we expect this to be a genuine entree to the Powerpuff Girls, or should we expect that this is exclusively pitched to people who have already seen the wildly popular animated series? If it's the latter, Little's attempts at making a long-form story featuring Mojo Jojo seems counterproductive - readers (especially young ones) are going to want done-in-one adventures like the TV show. If it's the former, however, then Little introduces the Powerpuff Girls a little too abruptly, not giving us a real reason to love them (aside from us knowing they have a TV show).

This conundrum keeps this comic from really punching outside its weight class, but that won't stop younger readers or diehard Powerpuff Girls fans from enjoying this comic. There's a good sense of humor and brisk pacing to this first issue, and while IDW's first issue of Powerpuff Girls can come off a bit uneven, Troy Little's talents will still be enough to pique reader interest.

Credit: Image Comics


Rat Queens #1 Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Roc Upchurch
Published by Image Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

If you're a fan of both comics and the fantasy genre, then it seems Image Comics is getting to be the place to go. First, there was Mice Templar, with its anthropomorphic but earnest approach to the genre, followed by Skullkickers, with its far more light-hearted take on the world of swords and sorcery. With Rat Queens, Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch step up to the plate, crafting a fantasy series that readers will find hits all of the right notes as they deliver an edgy but humorous comic that has fun in the world of the fantastic without taking itself too seriously.

First up, the art: Upchurch's art works really well in this issue on all fronts, and he delivers an incredibly polished comic. His characters strike a balance between the realistic and cartoonish, which lends itself to a comic that doesn't it take itself too seriously while still participating in the fantasy genre in earnest. He also demonstrates a willingness to allow the action of one panel to spill over into subsequent panels, which helps convey the abruptness of those actions taking place. Used too often, and the basic plot points would become confused; here, Upchurch is able to help hit the beats of the scene and keep his readers moving along.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the unique approach he takes in subtly guiding readers to where he wants them to look in each panel through his use of muted backgrounds. It's not hard to notice when an artist cuts corners and skimps on backgrounds leaving little – if anything – to provide context for the characters in the foreground. What Upchurch does in this issue, however, is to blur the reader's vision of the backgrounds while still providing an unfocused image of the scenery. Combined with the crisp lines of the action and / or characters in the foreground, the reader's vision is immediately directed to the most important part of that respective panel. Because Upchurch only uses this technique occasionally, as opposed to liberally applying it throughout the comic, it is seems far more intentional than not. Anyone claiming the artists aren't playing just as important a role in storytelling needs to pay closer attention to details and techniques such as this.

And then there's Wiebe's story. Honestly, if Jim Zub's Skullkickers is akin to the type of AD&D game I would have played with my friends in middle school, replete with sophomoric humor and fun, then Kurtis Wiebe's Rat Queens is what that game would have looked like in high school if a bunch of bad ass girls ever came over to play. It's a really entertaining comic book that manages to capture the spirit of tabletop gaming without making fun of that experience – something many entries into pop culture sadly seem to feel the need to do. Instead of a heroic band of heroes, however, Wiebe introduces readers to a city populated by less than reputable but still likeable gangs – each infamous in their own right. The Rat Queens are, like most roleplaying parties, eclectic in nature but all females.

Admittedly, I was a little hesitant going into this comic because the fantasy genre simply does not tend to do well in the way it treats women, and I was not at all interested in reading a comic about a bunch of stereotypes. Not only does Wiebe do a fine job of avoiding that set of landmines, but he also eschews employing stereotypes typical of the fantasy genre. His magic-using elf, Hannah, hardly looks, sounds, or acts like the sort one might expect to find in many other stories of this variety. His halfing-like character, Betty, is… well, nothing like any halfing I have ever seen – in a published work or sugar-induced night of roleplaying games. But she's arguably the funniest character of the bunch. Likewise, his warrior and cleric – Violet and Dee – have personalities that clash and complement those of their partners, all of which makes for a sharp and humorous initial foray.

As I mentioned before, I'm really impressed Image is making some real strides into the fantasy genre. Some publishers have made it known that it isn't always about the best possible story but the biggest audience that they want to pursue. While this genre isn't necessarily for everyone, it's great to see a big name publisher, like Image, stepping up to tell stories that are both serious and fun of all sorts. Sometimes, readers might not even know what they're missing out on until they try something that's entirely different from what they're accustomed to reading. Rat Queens #1 may not be for readers who have no interest in fantasy or action-adventure comics, but I suspect even casual readers who aren't as familiar with the world of swords and sorcery will still chuckle at the off-beat humor in this comic.

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