I can see what writer Kurtis Wiebe is trying to do here and it doesn’t work nearly as well as he seems to think it does. After the previous volume left off with necromancer Hannah finding out some distressing news about her father, she and the rest of the Rat Queens head off to Mage U in order to help him out. This leads Hannah to a reckoning with her past and her friends after the secret behind the incredible magical power she wields is revealed. Why is this a problem? Well, I’ll just say that the subtitle for this volume is kind of a hint in that regard.
This is some fairly serious stuff that has been injected into what has been an amusingly irreverent fantasy romp so far. While I wanted more substance after the hijinks of the second volume, the way in which the writer tries to do this are at odds with the comedy. I’m not saying that Wiebe has completely forsaken the funny bits here, as the opening scenes with the Queens being held hostage by the goblins and Petunia’s interactions with the dragon are comedic high points. The problem is that the pivot towards drama comes too soon for this title. “Demons” feels like the kind of story you tell right before the end of a series, when things start going bad for the good guys, relationships once thought unbreakable start to falter, and the bad guys finally get the upper hand. After only two volumes, “Rat Queens” hasn’t accumulated the kind of history or characterization that’s needed to really sell the drama here. The end result is that most of the storytelling here feels forced and generally unsatisfying.
Tess Fowler is the new artist for this volume and she does her best to sell what Wiebe is peddling here. I’ll definitely admit that she’s got a great handle on the fantasy and comedy aspects of this series, and I even like her “Even More Demonic” design for Hannah. The biggest problem here is that former artist Stjepan Sejic is still on hand to provide the covers. Which means that the start of every issue here provides a reminder of what we’re missing out on after health problems forced him off this title. Even if Sejic had done this entire volume, I’m not convinced his art would’ve turned it into a completely satisfying experience. If this story does represent the beginning of the end for “Rat Queens,” then it’s probably for the best.