RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC by Kurtis J. Wiebe and William Kirkby
While it carries the same air of humor and bloody action, RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC has some issues that it cannot surpass. This is a story for long-time readers, meaning new readers unfamiliar with the source material will likely get lost. Meanwhile, despite showcasing a new, cyberpunk setting, it isn't explored nearly enough to warrant this one-shot story.
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If you want great doses of humor and action in your comic book reading diet, look no further than Image Comics’ RAT QUEENS. For me, this series redefined the comic book medium. The way it tackles diversity and bloody action with a tongue in cheek attitude always feels satisfying. With that said, when Kurtis J. Wiebe, the series’ creator, announced RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, I was deeply excited. Putting the Queens in a cyberpunk setting a la tabletop RPG “ShadowRun” just felt right. But does this one shot story live up to expectations?

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RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC opens on the virtual world. Dee, no longer a cleric but a brilliant hacker, is on the trail of a scammer. This criminal, preying on the good-will of everyday people, has stolen a great deal of money. The Palisade Cybercrime Division has hired the Queens to find and eliminate this scammer. As the dig, though, the Queens find that there are no easy answers in their line of business. Their scammer isn’t working alone, meaning that Dee and the rest of her squad need to dive back into the matrix and find the real criminal mastermind.

Queens on the Case

RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, Page 1. Courtesy of Image Comics

RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC is a rather fun premise, and Wiebe manages to execute it fairly well. The major highlights of this one-shot stem from Dee’s forays into the virtual world. There is a huge variety of locations and characters introduced in these sections. Wiebe obviously used these sections as a means of playing to his strengths. They are whacky, ridiculous, and absolutely hilarious. Seriously, staging the opening scene in a virtual auction similar to a “GoFundMe” page for a grieving grandchild feels like a stroke of genius. More importantly, this issue manages to lean on the action that made this series famous. There are a couple of major shoot-outs, and a dragon makes an appearance to threaten our heroines. This is an exciting story and should be remembered as such.

With that said, I did have one major issue with this story. I didn’t necessarily understand why RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC needed to be told in this way. The change of setting really only affects Dee’s abilities, Violet and Becky’s weaponry, and a few names and places. Hannah even still uses magic. The setting change doesn’t seem all that drastic or necessary for a large part of the narrative. This is simply another RAT QUEENS story with a different coat of paint. For that reason, it felt a bit gimmicky outside of Dee’s sections. In Dee’s cyber-adventures, this setting really hits its stride. Outside of these sections, though, very little world-building is done. As this is a one-shot, I want to explore more of this version of Palisade. Otherwise, it feels like a bit of a waste.

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CyberCrime Queens

RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, Page 2. Courtesy of Image Comics

Delving into the characterization of RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC is a bit difficult for me. As a long time reader, I have a fairly good understanding of these characters. In many ways, that represents the beauty of this issue. After all, as a long-time reader, I didn’t feel that anyone’s characterization stepped too far outside of what we already know. Wiebe stays true to the development he has done over the last five years. I feel like he did a fantastic job cementing the typical status quo. Sure, he doesn’t breach any new ground, but with such solid personalities already, some might argue he doesn’t need to.

However, that still poses a problem for new readers. RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC is not for newcomers to the series. It relies heavily on a previous knowledge of the world. The only new characters introduced into this new setting largely feel like cannon-fodder, including the main villain. A new reader coming into this issue would likely find themselves confused. They’d get glimpses into character personalities, but little past that. This is a story heavily based in its plot. That sadly means that character takes a backseat. I know Wiebe is a master of characterization. His past work has created a huge depth in his large cast. This issue, though, doesn’t live up to that tradition.

A Strange New World

RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, Page 3. Courtesy of Image Comics

William Kirkby tackles the art in RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, and for the most part, I think he did a fantastic job. His work on the visual effects, especially those in Dee’s Cyber visits, are nothing short of spectacular. I loved the ways that Kirkby used the tentacles from Dee’s main series god as a means to showcase her new cyber abilities. It created a rather powerful visual thread that connects NEON STATIC and OG RAT QUEENS.

On the subject of Kirkby’s anatomy and character art, I am torn. I personally do not take to his style of drawing faces. His surrealist style doesn’t work so well for me. Also, some of his poses feel a bit stiff throughout. Nevertheless, his work carries with it a huge amount of energy, and his design work is some of the best in comics. There is something for everyone in his art style, and that is really impressive.

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RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC, as a one-shot, feels like a bit of a mess. Despite being set in a cyberpunk world, we barely get to explore this new setting. The way Wiebe explores his fan-favorite characters feels satisfying to long-time readers, but new readers get very little information. Nevertheless, RAT QUEENS: NEON STATIC still works on some level. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a RAT QUEENS story. As such, it comes with the same amount of humor and action that we expect from the series. Long-time fans should really give this story a try. New readers, take my advice and start with volume 1. At least then you can follow these adventurers from the beginning.

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