It is not without noted irony that the hard-fighting, enthusiastic partying ladies of Rat Queens have been mired in controversy for the better part of two years. The series is, above all, one of my absolute favorites, and it took the comic industry by storm. It was a D&D-style, sword and sorcery affair starring four foul-mouthed ladies, the titular Rat Queens, and their misadventures through the kingdom. Everything about the series was top notch: they had great character development, great art, fantastic dialog and Laissez-faire attitude that took the comic in many surprising directions. And then that all changed.
In 2014, Roc Upchurch (aka John Upchurch) was arrested for domestic battery. The story that came out was that he had hit his wife in the middle of an argument. It was not the first time, as he himself admitted in an apology that rubbed fans the wrong way. It wasn’t just that he didn’t sound terribly sorry, it was that he kind of sort of implied that maybe it was wife’s fault. Kurtis J. Wiebe removed Upchurch from the series, and thus it started into a tailspin.
It was clear, as soon as the first non-Upchurch issue released, that Upchurch and Wiebe were a creative duo; they each brought their own ideas and flair to the table, and together they created a truly memorable experience. The initial arc after Upchurch, with art by Stjepan Sejic was quite good, but it definitely established an overarching evil presence within the world that Dee (and hopefully the Queens) would be forced to reckon with at a later time. Tess Fowler eventually stepped in as a semi-permanent replacement, but the series lost its way for a bit. In fact, the last 4 or 5 issues ranged from “good” to merely “OK.” That feeling of “this is the best thing eh-var” had faded, as it was clear those at the helm weren’t sure where to go. And thus Fowler was let go. And thus began controversy number two.
Fowler claimed that she was assured Upchurch was never returning to the series, only for Wiebe to go back on his word and tell her that Upchurch was returning to the series, and that Fowler shouldn’t let the door hit her on the way out. (OK, that wasn’t said, but Fowler didn’t paint the parting of ways in a friendly light.) This started controversy number three because not only had Fowler been unceremoniously let go, it was then put out into the ether that Upchurch was returning. Wiebe vehemently denied this and cited creative differences between himself and Fowler. Boy. Is that a cluster $#@% or what?
Image Comics announced that Rat Queens is returning, in March (huzzah!), with a new artist who is most definitely neither Upchurch nor Fowler (…good? I think? I don’t know), and that it will be a soft reboot (what the shit?!).
“Cat Kings and Other Gary’s: Part One” begins a fresh, soft-reboot and the Rat Queens are back in action! Everybody’s favorite butt-kickers—Betty, Violet, Dee, Braga, and Hannah—return in RAT QUEENS, VOL. 2 #1. Palisade is still a rat-infested troll’s ass and everyone still hates Gary. It’s been awhile since the Queens have done a good slaughter, so join them as they get back to the basics of killing monsters and drinking away the profits.