Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda – Comic Book Review

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda - Comic Book Cover

In Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda’s Monstress comic series, a 17-year-old girl explores her own past after a devastating war waged by humans against the Arcanics, who are roughly similar to humans. Roughly. This usually leads to bloodshed. Especially since many Arcanics possess animal characteristics, such as fox tails and ears, wings, or goat heads on their necks. (So it might easily happen that you yourself would strike first and ask questions later if you encounter one in a rougher neighborhood.)

Fortunately, Maika Halfwolf belongs to the more striking Arcanics. And not only has she been sold into slavery, but an ancient entity resides within her, seeking to take control over her. So, Maika has plenty to do and problems to solve as she embarks on a Kill Bill-esque revenge spree against her enemies, while Monstress – Volume 1: Awakening touches on themes such as genocide, reckless lust for power, or humanity in an inhuman world.

But what can be said about a comic that appeals to both amputation fetishists and cat lovers? Perhaps that it’s beautiful? Yes. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening is beautiful, occasionally hauntingly erotic, with some panels that resemble detailed, baroque paintings created seemingly just for the joy of drawing. And you haven’t seen characters exuding such ethereal beauty in a comic before. Compared to them, even the equally beautiful characters of Locke & Key look like simple gnomes.

Since even the evil characters are beautiful, it’s heartbreaking when a despicable witch-nun is permanently sidelined. What a loss! (Even Little “M” flipped through the volume with interest, although she couldn’t be persuaded to read a single speech bubble from it. 🙁 )

The Monstress series excels in world-building in its first part, Awakening. You get a complete mythology, with ancient gods, godlike humans/Arcanics, five intermingling races, right into the thick of it. And admittedly, with all the back-and-forth references, thrown information crumbs, and mix-ups, sometimes you might feel like you need a brain much more advanced than yours for complete understanding.

But just when you’re about to get thoroughly confused, Professor Tam Tam, the scholar cat teacher, always shows up and sets things straight. Yeah, take that, one of the five sentient races in the world of Monstress is cats. So Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda’s comic is particularly recommended for cat lovers. And for those who crave something freaking unique and beautiful!

9/10

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda – Comic Book Review
192 pages, Paperback
Published in 2019 by Image Comics

(Monstress, Volume 1 collects MONSTRESS #1-6.)

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