Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, MONSTRESS tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and heir hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind…and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken…
I first found this volume when I started getting into comics, and it was actually one of the first that I picked and bought on my own. Before then, I just read whatever my boyfriend and his family suggested. I think what drew me the most to Montress was the art; it was vastly different than the other things I had been reading at the time and I wanted to know the story that went with it.
I absolutely loved Monstress! It was beautiful, magical, and slightly terrifying. There’s so much I can say and I’m not quite sure where to begin! Maybe I’ll start with the few things I liked the least about the story? Yea, that sounds good enough.
I’ve never been much for gore, at times it necessary in a story, but I prefer to hear it and the reactions of others and allow my own mind to come up with the image. It’s part of the reason I stay away from most horror films because they seem to use gore for the sake of gore, not to add any real favoring to the story. Anyways, while this story doesn’t quite use gore for the sake of gore, there’s still a lot of it. In fact, I believe it’s a little muted compared to some of the other comics I’ve read, which have made my stomach sour at the detailing.
I do really enjoy fantasies, but my least favorite thing about them is all the backstory related to the tale. Don’t get me wrong, I love backstory as much as the next person, but at the beginning of a fantasy a lot of the needed information is missing because it’s nestled in the backstory that won’t be revealed until later. Fortunately for this story, most of the major plot points don’t reference or involve past events from the backstory. Sure, there’s a ton of mystery behind Maika that might make parts of the story make a little bit more sense, but she’s a mystery to herself so that’s okay. It’s not like the backstory isn’t being revealed. In fact, it’s slowly coming together at breaks in the story in an interesting way. Instead of relying on awkward dialogue between main characters to talk about past events, you read the information from another character separate from the story as they teach their class about history. Some people might find that annoying and will skip over it, since it has no effect on the immediate story, but I found those segments clever and fascinating. The one bit of backstory that really irked me though was this battle that greatly affected the world. So many characters make reference to it, but not all their information is the same and anything said is only in bits and pieces. Even towards the end the battle is assumed to begin to be explained, but only in mixed up fragments. I get it’s part of the story to figure out what happened at that battle, and normally it wouldn’t frustrate me so, but it’s referenced so much that while I know it should be important, the magnitude is lost on me.
Other than those two things, the gore and constipated backstory, the rest of the story is fantastic! The characters are fantastic, even the villains are interesting follow. Maika is a strong female lead that starts her monumental journey not because someone told her she was destined for greatness, that she’ll save the world, etc. but because she wants to find herself and let the world be damned! She’s so hard, but not quite in a bitchy sort of way, she’s a survivor that still has some softness to her that rarely shows. Then there’s Kippa who is probably my favorite because she plays the important roles of grounding Maika and comic relief. She’s a complicated character in her own right and I can’t wait to see how she develops!
The world is absolutely breathtaking, it’s so complicated and intricate, like something from the mind of Guillermo del Toro but with an art deco Asian twist. Dead gods, humanoid-animal ancient beings, half-breeds, witches, talking cats, and demons there’s so much this fantasy world has to offer. There’s a mixture of old and new that’s so fascinating. Great steampunk themed labs and facilities built on ancient ruins. Swords and steampunk inspired muskets and pistols. Winged warriors and airships. Everything just clashes in a beautiful chaotic masterpiece!
The art is phenomenal, a combination of simple and intricate details that added depth to this fantasy world. A lot of the more detailed work went into the designs in the backgrounds, clothing, and weaponry, but only when needed. The extremely comprehensive designs on the clothing allowed more important characters to stand out from others, or show their power (physically, monetarily, magically, etc.). But most of the characters are rather basic in design, excluding their clothing and coloring. Any character that had a lot of detailing, specifically in the face, where to reveal their harsh ugly personality or utter terror in death. The detailing in the background depended on the importance or power of the scenery as well, adding unspoken information to the story for readers to choose to glean. The coloring in the story is wonderful as well, giving it an old feel like someone retelling an old tale. The colors match the mood of the story well, bright when calm or happy, dark when terrifying, and muted when recalling. Overall, the art is darker than I normally like, but it matches with the story so well that I wouldn’t want it any other way!
For the most part, I really enjoyed the story and had a time putting it down. It’s a beautifully written fantasy with a concept I haven’t read in a long time, which was refreshing. The characters are different than I expected, but extremely enjoyable to read about. The backstory is still a little lacking, making some scenes a little hard to follow due to the information gaps, but that’ll clear up with each installment. Though I feel like some of the bigger wholes from the backstory weakened the magnitude of parts of the story. The story is full of action and intrigue, pulling at readers’ curiosity as the mysteries start to unfold! The horror isn’t too much, at least not yet, and it chilled me in a delightful sort of way. The gore wasn’t too terrible, but I wouldn’t suggest showing it to children. The dialogue is rather witty, and it fits each character well, allowing their personalities to show through.
Altogether, this was a fantastic first installment to what I believe will be a thrilling adventure! I would recommend it to any horror or fantasy fan, or anyone who loves the work of Neil Gaiman or Guillermo del Toro. I wouldn’t recommend this to any young readers for it contains beheading, gore, mutilation, and explicate death scenes. If any of the before listed things frighten or disturb you please don’t read Monstress or do so at your own risk.
Title: Monstress: Awakening
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer(s): Majorie Liu
Illustrator: Sana Takeda
Colors: Rus Wooton
Letters: Rus Wooton
Released Date: July 19th 2016
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk