Monstress, Volume #1, Awakening
Written by: Marjorie Liu
Art by: Sana Takeda
Letters and Design: Rus Wooton
Review by: Nicole Bresner
Monstress came so highly recommended to me that I decided to wait for the trade. I’m not good at waiting, so when I received my pre-ordered copy, I devoured it in a day. Having flipped through and been told by fellow comic folk that it’s “my kind of book,” I knew it would be impressive, but it exceeded even my high expectations. Monstress is a masterpiece of intricate world-building and stunning artwork, steeped in layers of rich storytelling and mystical suspense. It combines fantasy, horror and political intrigue, in a darkly provocative world on the brink of war. Furthermore, the societies in the book are matriarchal, so basically, factions of some really badass women are getting ready to unleash their furies upon one another. Great stuff! The art is mind-blowing, so ornate and with such a distinctive style, I found myself wondering how artist Sana Takeda produced such work in any reasonable time frame. The character designs are worthy of Best Costume awards and the backgrounds are meticulously detailed and architectural- nothing is left unfinished. It’s rare that I find a comic in which I think the art and story are equally amazing, but Monstress is now officially one of them.
It’s not entirely clear what’s going on yet in Monstress, specifically the nature of the “affliction” that haunts Maika Halfwolf, a young Arcanic woman with unexplained powers. There is something inside Maika, something monstrous, something that causes her to hunger (in a rather gruesome manner). This unnamed darkness, an amalgam of eyes and snake-like appendages, enjoys its freedom, and periodically enters the world via protruding from Maika’s stump of an arm. Maika would like this to stop. Thus, she is seeking answers, about her past, about who she is, and what lurks within her. She is joined in her journey by Master Ren, a talking and formidable cat of questionable origins, and Kippa, a frightened fox girl with some warrior skills of her own.
The story takes place in a wonderfully crafted world divided. The Federation is comprised of humans and Cumaeans (relentless witch-nuns, bent on destroying the Arcanics and creating Lilium (a powerful restorative substance) from murder victims. The Arcanics are an ancient race of non-humans with supernatural secrets, of which Maika is a descendant, and unwitting host to powers she cannot yet explain. Zamora, the formerly great city where these cultures once intermingled peacefully and civilization thrived, is now a dangerous land and the center of a brewing conflict between the Federation and the Arcanics. Frequent mentions are made of horrific events at “Constantine” and the Arcanic ability to summon Monstra, both of which have yet to be fully explained.
Monstress Volume 1, follows Maika as she tries to unravel the mystery of her origins. She has a powerful object in her possession and hordes of very scary people after her, from witches to soldiers to Inquisitrixes. Flashbacks fill in some blanks about Maika’s strange affliction and her complicated relationaship with Tuya, a seemingly important presence in Maika’s past. These hints tease the reader into needing to know more, and I am no exception.
Buy It! I enthusiastically recommend Monstress Volume 1, Awakenings, especially to fans who enjoy fantasy with a proper measure of creepiness, gore, and warrior women. Once more for good measure, too: The art! The ART!!!!!! *swoon*
Next time, I will not be able to wait for the trade… Monstress #7 is out on September 7th, 2016.