Pick Your Poison: Goblins or Nazis?
“A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire” should sell you right off the bat on Rat Queens, a fantasy comic series by Kurtis Wiebe. For those of us who played (or still play) Dungeons and Dragons, Rat Queens hits exactly the right tone of an irreverent fantasy world of adventurers for hire. The elevator pitch would call the series Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids, but it’s so much more. The tagline for the first volume is ‘Sass & Sorcery’, which is definitely an apt description. With endearing, oddball characters (like the thief who thinks drugs and candy are an acceptable choice for trail rations), witty (and sometimes bawdy) humor, and stellar art from Roc Upchurch, this one is definitely a fun and blisteringly funny read.
For those who prefer guns and Nazis to swords and orcs, you might give Peter Panzerfaust a try instead. Here Wiebe takes J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and translates it to World War II France, and does so with deftness and heart. Translating the Lost Boys (and Peter himself) into teenage resistance fighters against the Nazi invaders gives their adventures more dramatic weight (and Wiebe treats this setting with care, as well, not merely cashing in on our cinematic concepts of the dreaded fascists), upping the ante from cartoonish kids fighting pirates. There’s a lot of raw emotion, too. We not only see these young men facing danger and horror beyond their years, but we also see them in present day, old men tearfully recalling these events (as the framing narrative positions these adventures as flashbacks, stories told by the survivors to a man gathering their experiences so they can be passed on to future generations). Rarely do translations of classic stories really resonate as more than just another adaptation, but Peter Panzerfaust manages to catch just enough lightning in a bottle to be something special.