Written by: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by: Tess Fowler
If there is one thing that Kurtis Wiebe has sold me on entirely it’s the women of Rat Queens; Violet, Betty, Dee, and Hannah — these ladies really are the whole picture. They are not only physically strong (trust me, they can hold their own in multiple battles) but also fully fledged well-rounded characters with unique voices.
That alone is very, very cool.
What’s more is that Wiebe opens the door to the development of these women; we’re lucky enough to learn who they were and how that has shaped who they are. Our titular characters will undoubtedly be covered fully in the series’ ongoing story arcs, but what about the secondary femme brutales we meet along the way?
Braga is introduced to us in Issue #1, as the formidable orc of The Peaches mercenary group. When the Rat Queens end up saving Braga’s life, she comes back in a big way to help them take down a different orc threat on the city of Palisade’s doorstep. From this exchange we learn a few things about Braga: she’s a ferocious warrior, hacking and ripping her way through any orc in her path; and she’s also known as “the bastard!”; the title alone enough to strike fear into her enemies.
It’s in the aftermath of this battle that Braga #1 takes place. After seeing her on the battlefield, Dave of the Four Daves, has some legitimate questions for her (as do we), and Braga begins to reminisce on her time with her people, prior to winding up in Palisade.
We discover Braga used to be Broog, the eldest son of the great orc Chieftain, and next in line to inherit the role as leader of the tribe. Though a skilled warrior, Broog is tired of the endless violence that plagues his people, and has petitioned his father with ways to establish a peaceful connection between the warring tribes. Even though Broog’s closest friend Kiruk sees this as a sign of strength, Broog’s father does not. Unwilling to pass the mantle of leadership to his eldest son, the rightful heir to the throne, the Chieftain hatches a plan with his second son to have Broog killed. Quite obviously, that plan doesn’t succeed.
The most striking element of Braga’s backstory is not that she used to be a he, nor how she was betrayed by her father and her brother. It is the level of emotion she feels having lost her connection to her people. Done with both Wiebe’s superb writing and detailed art by the amazing Tess Fowler, you can see the pain behind Braga’s eyes as she recounts her story. She knows how much she could have accomplished had her people been more accepting of who she was. In these panels, the anger Braga displayed on the battlefield has been stripped, and the scenes in Palisade are met with a muted longing for the day when she can return to her true home without the burden of judgement; a message just as strong to our society as it is to the fantasy world of the series.
The depth of Braga’s story is easily compounded with Fowler’s portrayal of her character. The honesty in Braga’s words and actions make her an undeniably strong woman, but it is in her connection with others that her personality speaks. Fowler does a beautiful job drawing on the most emotional physical traits when covering characters in this issue. The looks shared between Braga and her father when he reveals he doesn’t want her as a successor, encapsulate everything from guilt to sadness to anger. Whereas those features soften drastically when Braga interacts with Kiruk, an orc who seems to understand her more than anyone. When Braga does take a panel herself she steals the scene. We can see very plainly that she is comfortable and confident in her own skin, and shamelessly flaunts a few of her more feminine traits to Dave before literally taking him to back to bed; the feeling that she is proud of the woman she is resounds with readers, and that’s a lesson we can all draw on at one point or another.
In usual Rat Queens fashion, the poignancy of this special issue isn’t without humor. Braga’s quick wit and sarcasm point to why she fits in so well with Violet, Betty, Dee, Hannah. And makes this one off just as enjoyable as the ongoing series. From Broog’s rousing battle cry, to Braga’s hope the bards sing of her sexual accolades, Wiebe keeps us laughing even though an issue with themes as deep as self and gender identity, and familial struggles.
Without a doubt, Rat Queens is one to keep reading, and is still one of my favorites on the shelves. Hopefully Braga #1 is one of many specials we will have coming our way, but if nothing else, I hope we see more of Braga in the continuing adventures of the Rat Queens.
The regular series returns next month with Rat Queens #9 and new artist Stjepan Sejic!
Editor’s note – About the author:
Amanda is one of the Rebel Alliance’s most coveted spies. When not stealing highly classified Imperial documents, she’s usually blasting womp rats in her T-16 back home. She does make the time to read comics usually from Image and Dark Horse or get lost in whatever video game title has her attention. Amanda works and lives in Los Angeles, where she tries to imagine the city a little less as a concrete jungle and a little more like the Citadel. She writes and posts other geek related stuff on her blog: http://iamredfive.tumblr.com/