Monstress vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

monstress-5Maika is an Arcanic (half-human, half-Ancient) survivor of a terrible human-Arcanic war, and she’s trying to find out who killed her mother, what exactly happened at Constantine (the atrocity that ended the war), and whether, somehow, she had any part in it as a child. Maika has something dark within her, something she doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to control. All she knows is that sometimes she hungers.

As well as humans and arcanics, there are also immortal ancients (who look like ancient Egyptian gods), dead old gods, and sentient cats who work as spies and poets. Within humans, there is a separate faction called Cumea, who are basically (so far) witch-like women with some powers and a penchant for torture. Though beginning on her own, Maika soon travels with a young fox-like arcanic and a sass-mouth sentient cat.

This is a dark, violent, and confusing comic.

The artwork by Takeda is absolutely stunning. She uses a muted colour pattern throughout, with intricate detail in both panels and full page spreads. Just look at the god damn beautiful stuff:

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Liu’s writing, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the artwork. Like a lot of fantasy, there is loads of information about the world and the different peoples to get across in a short space of time. Liu doesn’t quite pull it off. The exposition in dialogue is both too much and not always clear enough, the pacing is a bit off, and it’s very confusing in places where it’s not clear a flashback has ended and the normal timeline is back. All of this also leaves little room for character development, which will hopefully come through more in future issues/volumes now the initial set-up is mostly done. But, saying all that, it does make more sense as you go on if you just go with it, and read it in one, or very few, sittings. The story feels familiar, like it’s been told before but better elsewhere.

monstressDespite that, there is a lot of good in the writing / storytelling as well. I love the idea of the dead old gods wandering as giant ethereal ghosts across the landscape. And there’s good stuff about the aftermath of war, and how post-war ‘peace’ doesn’t mean stable or peaceful if none of the underlying problems have been solved.

This is a comic which I liked rather than loved, but I will absolutely pick up the second volume. The artwork is stunning, and I think the story could have potential once it’s out of the set-up phase, so I want to give it a chance.

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One Response to Monstress vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

  1. Pingback: September reads 2016 | mischief and miscellany

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