Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu
Published by Image Comics
Published on: July 13 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Steampunk
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Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both. Entertainment Weekly praised MONSTRESS as “one of Image Comics’ most imaginative and daring new series” and dubbed it the “Best New Original Series” in their year-end “Best Comics of 2015” list.
Collects MONSTRESS #1-6
One of the things I’m discovering that I love about graphic novels, is the way they hit the ground running. The creators don’t toy with you the way writers of traditional books sometimes do—they don’t have the time to draw out anything beyond the most important Secrets.
MONSTRESS, for example, opens with a slave auction, and the inquiries made about Lot 819 reveal the specific brand of prejudice that governs this world. You learn of a war that seems to have ended, while the thriving slave trade continues to fan the flames of hate.
There’s no guesswork, and any confusion about terminology resolves itself quickly.
Our heroine, Maika Halfwolf, is the girl currently up for bid, but (once again) it quickly becomes obvious that she’s only there b/c she wants to be.
YEP. You read that correctly: dollface WANTS to be auctioned off like livestock. And not only that, she’s banking on the Cumaea, a witchy faction of humans, crashing the shindig and claiming the Arcanics, a race of beings with natural magic, for themselves.
Dun dun dunnnnnn . . . For research purposes . . .
Just b/c graphic novels tend to be more straightforward than their picture-free counterparts, doesn’t mean they aren’t twisty.
Maika is looking for information.
Before the war ended, something happened (was done?) to her . . . Something that has recently begun to affect her in ways she can’t control. It’s made her dangerous, and she’s desperate for answers.
Along the way, she picks up a two-tailed sasshole of a cat, a girl child with a fox tail, and an angry dialogue with the thing that plagues her.
Every aspect of MONSTRESS drew me in—the characters, the world-building, the plot, ALL of it. From the first page, everything else become a distraction to be ignored. I didn’t give any thought to the why of it, as I tore through the story and the beautiful illustrations, but at the end of the first volume, Lui wrote about her intent with this new series:
. . . The root of my desire . . . was to tell a story about what it means to be a survivor. A survivor, not just of a cataclysmic war, but of racial conflict and its antecedent: hatred. And to confront the question: how does one whom history has made a monster, escape her monstrosity? How does one overcome the monstrousness of others without succumbing to a rising monstrousness within?
All I can say is, well done, lady! Well done.
MONSTRESS by Marjorie M. Liu is the first collection (volumes 1 – 6) of her new graphic novel series that is part steampunk, part fantasy, and ALL awesome. Maika’s struggle to control the monster inside her is inspiring to watch, b/c that’s what it was: a struggle. But surrender is a concept she threatens to rip out of herself every time it whispers about the easier path, and as she slowly gains the upper hand, you can’t help but sing “All I do is Win” under your breath, b/c she’d rather die than quit. Highly recommended.