The third volume of Rat Queens signifies a change in focus. Unlike the previous volumes, this one is truly is about one Queen in particular, Hannah. While the other queens have important roles in Rat Queens: Demons Hannah is definitely the driving force and the focus of this portion of the story.
Although her true nature was revealed in volume 2, what that truly means is only revealed in volume 3. Demons is a character study about Hannah, as much as a revelation of her history. We learn more about where she comes from and what she’s willing to do to get what she wants. And, in the true storytelling style of Rat Queens, there are many things that are revealed to Hannah even as they are revealed to the audience. For that matter, many of these things are revealed to the other Rat Queens for the first time and while many more remain hidden from Hannah’s teammates.
Not that Hannah is the only person that we learn something about. Though she is definitely the focus, the other Queens are in the story. We learn that Betsy is a wanted woman and the truth behind Dee’s quest to prove that the god her people worship is not real. In the last volume, Dee became the high priestess of the cult that she grew up in by way of putting on the sacred helmet that is the symbol of the high priestesses of that cult. That helmet happened to contain all the memories of everyone who led the cult before her, including the secret behind her cult.
And it is a pretty earth shattering secret. Dee learns that her god is real and that her people’s worship of it actually is a good thing, even if it’s not for the reasons they think. It’s no benevolent entity by any stretch of the imagination but her people’s worship of it keeps it in check.
All of these secrets are just good reminders that, even though the Rat Queens are close friends and trust each other with their lives, they are not lifelong or childhood friends. They all have pasts and most of those pasts are dark. In fact, the Rat Queens are kind of like the adventuring group that your group comes up with when you get to college. You’ve stopped making the standard fighter and wizard, and even stopped making the unusual fighter and wizard, at least mechanically. Now, you’re toying with characters who aren’t exactly good. After all, the Rat Queens are a *spoiler* half-demon necromancer, an agnostic priestess of an evil Elder God, a thief who is almost constantly high and a…well…Violet is a pretty standard fighter, actually.
They are all hiding things from each other and, sometimes hiding things from themselves. Much as they like and trust each other, it’s obvious that they’re afraid of truly revealing all of their self-perceived flaws to each other because of what the others might think of them. In this way, Rat Queens proves, again, just how true to real life it is despite the magic and dragons in the world. Real life is hiding your darkest corners from the people who care about you the most because you’re certain that once they shine a light in there they’ll stop caring about you.
Speaking of dragons, Violet and Betsy actually run into one in this volume. It pretty quickly becomes evident just how ridiculous the idea of a couple of people with swords killing a creature the size of a house is. Fortunately for them (and those of us who love the characters), said dragon is friendly and ignores their attempt to kill them.
This side adventure is a nice, jolly diversion from the generally grim story told in Demons. Hannah’s quest to save her adoptive father quickly spirals completely out of control. It doesn’t take long to realize that she’s willing to do almost anything to rescue him and that she expects the other Queens to either get on board with her quest or get out of the way.
While the other Queens begin on board, the revelation of Hannah’s true nature and past causes the Dee to question the sorcerer. Hannah is in no mood to be questioned and their conversation escalates rapidly. Actually, it escalates a little too rapidly. Spoilers on, here. The Queens go from being a unified group (though one with some questions) to being broken up, with one of them arrested and imprisoned and feeling betrayed while the others are, apparently, out on other adventures in a single issue. It seems just a little bit rushed, especially since things were going fairly slowly and calmly in the previous issues. The fact that the whole thing was orchestrated by a puppet master behind the scenes doesn’t make this rush feel any less forced.
I have little doubt that the quartet will get back together soon enough, though there will be some serious scar tissue in their relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a time where Hannah is the villain that the rest of the ladies are facing. It will be interesting to see how they deal with each other as enemies.
The end of the main story is not the end of Demons. The volume also includes The Braga Special, a story focusing on the history of the woman most likely to replace one of the Rat Queens. She is probably the most important and most regularly appearing character in the series who is not actually one of the Rat Queens. Her special tells her backstory as a flashback in a single issue. Much like each of the Rat Queens, she’s an outsider within her culture and that’s why she eventually strikes out on her own. There’s one particular part that confuses me, but I won’t reveal it here for fear of spoilers. Let’s just say, there’s either some transformation magic I’m not remembering seeing, or Braga has…developed since leaving her people in interesting ways.
Demons is a new story in a way that The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth was not. While it is a complete story in itself, it builds on what has come before and sets up ripples that will affect the Rat Queens for a long time to come.