Monstress is one of the most beautiful comics I have ever read, its art taking inspiration from Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles and a hit of ancient Egypt. It’s a joy to look at even without the fantastic story, themes and characters. It’s rare to see such well-drawn and powerful emotion in the faces of comic book characters. Sana Takeda has so much talent.
Teenage Maika Halfwolf is considered a monster by humans. She’s Arcanic, although she would pass for human when many of her kind display animal characteristics. She is the survivor of a terrible war between humans and her kind. The Cumaea round up Arcanics for sinister purposes, experimenting on children and consuming their life force.
Maika may look innocent but there is a darker being lurking beneath the surface. Yet she is kind and tries to save the children she can. One of which ends up accompanying her on her travels, along with a rather wise cat.
The world Maika inhabits is brutal and terrifying, but the beauty of the artwork absorbed me, kept me turning the pages and I soon became attached to these characters, became afraid for their safety. Marjorie Liu was inspired to create Monstress by the tales her grandparents told her about wartime China. The horrors of the opening chapter definitely echo the atrocities of war.
It’s a story of corrupt power but also prejudice. It looks at how the actions of a people can taint their ancestors, breeding hatred and distrust, meaning peace is a distant prospect. It attempts to show how war affects those left behind. But there is also magic, and demons, and talking cats!
Most of the chapters end with an excerpt from the lectures of Professor Tam Tam (one of the Children of Ubasti, a race of many-tailed cats) which fills in some of the gaps in the world-building. And of course, there are the gorgeous full-page illustrations that Image Comics are known for putting in each issue.
I got the first issue of Monstress in a Humble Bundle but I promptly went out and bought the first volume in physical form. The trades are good and chunky, this first volume coming in at around 200 pages. I can’t wait to continue this beautiful series and learn more of Maika’s story.
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Book Source: Purchased
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