MONSTRESS: BOOK ONE
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
To quote the poets, we’re fucked..
Monstress, the Image comic that won all the big awards in 2018, written by Marjorie Liu and art by Sana Takeda,is a comic book we really need more of. Liu was the first woman to ever win an Eisner award for best writer. Both the writer and artist are women and almost all its cast are female, to be honest, it's a breath of fresh air in a male oriented industry. Not only because of them being women, but also because of the scope, flow and genre of the book. We simply need more epic fantasy in comics. And we need more comics like Monstress!
It might be a weird way to start a review, but after I finished Monstress book one, which contains the first three trades, I was blown away by it. I read a lot of books and fantasy is among my favorite genres, but I do think we should have some more in the comic book medium. There are a couple good ones, like Rat Queens and Seven To Eternity, but this is fantasy of another order. This comic with its complex story, almost reads like a novel. It doesn't start off easy, it drops you right in the middle of the story without any explanation, making the first couple issues enjoyable but a bit dense to read at times. We learn more and more of the story through flashbacks, and to top it off there is a history lesson at the end of every issue, sucking you in more and more. Making the story of Maika halfwolf a human arcanic with a monster attached to her, a very engaging one.
Maika lives in a fantasy world where a war between humans and Arcanics is brewing, and is followed by a coven of witches called the Cumea. She has a piece of a mask that could be the end of the world and they want to take it from here for their own evil use. She has other problems as well, she is constantly hungry, and a lot of times after she wakes up, people are missing. Maybe it has something to do with the evil monster attached to her who comes out at times, most of the time to help, but sometimes to just bitch and moan. She struggles with PTSD, something not mentioned but very apparent. In multiple ways this is an anti war book, showing all the dirty sides of it. Slavery, dehumanization, and a world where torture deceit and betrayal are sort of normal.
The setting of a steampunk, matriarchal Asia set in around the 1900s is original. With a large cast, varying races and all kinds of believable mythology, the world building is really impressive. There are Ancients, talking animals, Arcanics, and Monstra (some type of Old Gods) and all kinds of different cities and places making this a fantastic comic to dive into. After its difficult beginning the story evolves very fast with lots of action, mystery and secrets. The action is horror-like and bloody, and after its rough beginning, the story becomes very fast paced and straightforward.
Sana Takeda’s artwork is a big highlight and among the best I’ve ever seen. With a sort of art deco, gothic manga style, you just want to rip out every page and frame it. Zinn, the monstrum attached to Maika, is a being of magnificent power, and towers over everybody in terms of strength and physicality and it looks beautiful every time he enters a fight. On top of that Maika, who at times is not very likable and even a bit cruel, is an absolute badass who is never afraid to back away from a fight. Monstress also has an adorable supporting cast, making room for a bit of lighthearted fun at times. I can't think of anyone cuter than Kippa and her cool cat friend Master Ren. I think this series will take its time with plenty of issues and I can't wait to see where the story will take us.
This Image Hardcover is a damn fine addition to my comic collection, there are not too many extras but I'm not complaining with 500+ pages of epicness.