In our first installment of spec fic comic book reviews, we discussed Folklords issues 1-5. It was light, fun, and colorful.
Monstress is the antithesis of Folklords. It’s dark, grim, and the pages are splattered with blood.
Now, if you’re a comic book fan, or even a fan of speculative fiction in general, you might have heard of Monstress. It’s highly acclaimed and the first volume, Awakening, has been out since 2015.
The first volume of Monstress was written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda.
Liu is well known in the spec fic community as well as the comic book scene. She wrote a few series of paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels, including the Dirk & Steele series and the Hunter Kiss series.
In terms of comic books, she sits up there with some of the most popular authors. She’s worked on Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, Star Wars: Han Solo, and a number of X-Men comics.
Takeda is also a well-known name in the comic book community. She’s worked on X-Men comics, Venom, Civil War II, and Ms. Marvel.
Monstress wasn’t the pair’s first collaboration, but it’s definitely the best received. Monstress has won numerous awards, including the Eisner Award, British Fantasy Award, as well as multiple Hugo Awards.
All of that to say, you’re in for a treat.
Pinpointing a Style
Monstress has a unique style, to say the least.
The Known World where Monstress is set is an interesting combination of Art Deco steampunk and deep arcane magic. The garb, weapons, and architecture seem to come straight out of a decadent Victorian steampunk world, while the dark magic has roots in Ancient Egyptian imagery.
While the combination might seem odd, it is executed masterfully. The art alternates between scenes of dark horror and grand, bright forests and temples. It makes for a unique experience.
The inhabitants of Monstress come in a few forms:
- Humans – run of the mill humans, some of which are privy to magic powers
- The Ancients – A race of master beasts. Some are angels, others are powerful animal archons
- The Arcanics – A mixed race of human and Ancients, often with a mix of animal and human physiology
- The Cats – Multi-tailed warrior poets (my personal favorite)
Monstress follows a seventeen-year-old girl, Maika Halfwolf. As she rises out of slavery, she seeks answers surrounding her mother’s death and the Old Gods she was hunting.
While reading the story, I never felt there were slow points. Every scene seemed balanced and the progression of plot was consistent.
From the very beginning, we’re thrust into the conflict, as Maika raises one of the most revered human cities with her bare hands.
That exhilaration carries on throughout the rest of the comic, and there is never a low point.
The chapters are punctuated by brief interludes where the four-tailed cat Tam Tam does some heavy-lifting in terms of worldbuilding. It does a lot to clarify elements from previous chapters and gives some insight into what’s about to go down.
Overall, I felt that the story was very well-paced, and that the art—altering between dark and light—really adds to the tone of the story.
Monstress Comic Book Review Conclusion
I’m definitely a fan of this dark, steampunky fantasy. Something about unexplainable arcane magic tickles my interest, and I’m going to keep reading. As of writing this, there are 6 books in the series, and it’s still ongoing.
I’m interested to see if the plot stands up over the course of so many books, but I have faith that it will.
I’ve had no complaints about Monstress volume 1, and it might be the first time I give something a 10/10.
If you have a comic or graphic novel you’d like us to check out, leave it in the comments! Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews is an ongoing series here at Signals, and we’re always looking for our next favorite book!