Writer: by Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: 10/10 Foxtails
Song: Jean Grae - A-alikes
Monstress. The Eisner Award winning powerhouse. There are countless reviews of this series and all of them give high praise to this masterfully crafted world of magic, halflings, and old gods. Volume 4 collects issues 19-24 and quite possibly the most exciting issues thus far. From key characters going missing to introductions of a slew of characters that ooze bad-assery, the momentum that this series already had just went from 60 to 100 in a matter 6 issues.
I am of the group who didn’t pick up physical floppies of Monstress from the jump, but thanks to my fellow Loungers (@LifeOfAGeekyMind & @cidnyareads), I blasted thru the first 3 volumes in a short period of time. This series, along with Paper Girls (which I will also be reviewing), re-ignited my love for Image Comics and their continuous tradition for taking risks on creator-owned characters and stories. This story in particular, is something more than a 6-issue mini, this series is literally building a world.
The cover of volume 3 boast to be “... as ambitious as George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien” and let me tell you, that description is as spot as on as I am short and loud. The world building and dedication to writing a well-planned history, is immersive and captivating. The tension built in the midst of civil unrest is so thick, that I myself felt mini-panic attacks in anticipation for this 4th volume. Specifically for Kippa, but I’ll get to that later. This entire world is something to marvel at. While other comics have an already established world, history, mythos, and heroes, Marjorie Liu creates her own well crafted world plagued by racism, war, death, religion, and revenge. All the makings for an epic story that has me eagerly waiting for January to roll around so I can see what happens next.
Maika Halfwolf is the brooding, bad ass, take-zero-shit leading femme who just so happens to be the vessel to Zinn, a powerful Monstrum who was once considered a god. With half her past shrouded in mystery, the other half soaked by the blood of war, she spearheads story into the heart of a huge race war between the Arcanics, a magical race of mythical creatures, some of which can pass for humans, and the Cumaea, a Vatican-like order sorceresses that use Arcanic blood to fuel their power. While the war between the two hits a deadlock, Maika rages on with her own quest: avenge her dead mother. Vol 4 picks up where Vol 3 (issue 18) ends. The shield to a great city has fallen and it’s walls have been breached by the Cumaea’s elite Inquisitrix, then a near-apocalypse in the form of a dimensional rift, and to top it off, Maika’s Arcanic Fox friend has been abducted! But her ‘captors’ turn out to be beneficial to both try and end the war and also find the vengeance that Maika seeks!
This part of the story arc flexes Sana Takeda’s art muscle in a great way. Previous volumes have been absolutely stunning, don’t get me wrong. But this volume in particular is visually visceral and is the bloodiest volume to date. Panel after sepia panel, Sana Takeda looks to be pushing the boundaries of her own talent to produce a endless series of beautiful panels, riddled with blood and emotion.
This series truly deserves every award it’s received. The display of the many kinds relationships women can provide each other is so well depicted. The Matriarchal structure shows no weakness and does not let up at all. From the Arcanic Queen down to the former slave, Maika, there is not a single woman here that needs saving. Even the character growth in the little Fox, Kippa, is outstanding. The damsel in distress is non-existent in this world and it shouldn’t be any other way.