“Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening” by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

“Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening” by Marjorie Liu & Sana TakedaMonstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda
Series: Monstress #1
Published: July 19th 2016 by Image Comics
Genres: Graphic Novels, Horror/Gothic
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Have you ever impulsively purchased a book and then been completely blown away by how mindbogglingly amazing it was? Earlier this summer I was traveling for work, and was horribly sick. In between meetings I stepped into a comic book store and saw the first issue of Monstress. The art was breathtaking, and I immediately grabbed the trade collection. I’m so glad I did, because Monstress is unlike anything I’ve read before.

The story takes place in an alternate version of early 1900s Asia. The story opens as Maika, the teenage heroine, is being auctioned as a slave. But Maika is there because she wants to be, because she’s secretly a spy and is trying to bring the whole system down. You see, the half-animal magical folk are having their body parts stolen by the humans in order to create life-extending alchemy. It’s so brutal. And along the way, Maika rescues a terrified fox-child and becomes her friend. Having a friend is something that Maika has a hard time with, because she’s also semi-possessed by an Eldritch monster with a constant hunger for blood.

Monstress is definitely a story for mature readers. It’s dark and brutal, and horrible things happen to innocent people. And while it’s dark, it’s beautifully dark. Gloriously dark. The art has a steampunk/art-deco vibe, mixed with a whole lot of Lovecraft. Oh, and did I mention the cute magical historian cats that appear throughout the novel to explain things?

One other really neat aspect of the book is that pretty much all of the major characters are women of color. You know how you sometimes read comics or stories where every character is a white dude, and for some inexplicable reason there are no women and no other races in the entire universe? Monstress turns that trope on its head, and it’s so refreshing. Even the villains are women, and they’re creepy as hell. Creepy in the ‘even Helena Bonham Carter would have a hard time being this creepy’ kind of way. It’s glorious.

There are some books that that are so vibrant that they make all other books look pale and watery by comparison. Monstress is one of them.

Seriously guys, tentacle monsters and cats. It’s an amazing combination, and you have to read it.

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9 comments

  1. I’ve had the first issue of Monstress sitting on my shelves for months, but for some reason I haven’t read it yet. Now I’m kicking myself! From what you’ve said, it sounds perfect for me. I’m always looking to read more diverse and inclusive comics, and intersectional feminist comics are where it’s at. Thanks for the push to finally read this series!

  2. I had that experience when I bought Daughter of Smoke and Bone (It was buy one get one half price in Waterstones and I had actually gone in for the Hunger Games).

    This was a really helpful review. I’ve recently started reading Graphic Novels (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman) and it’s great to find something else that is so highly recommended. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

  3. I was super keen on this when I saw the cover when I was trawling through Edelweiss one time! I decided not to request it, because I would much rather read a graphic novel on paper than on my Kindle screen.

    I’m so, so glad that it was awesome! I absolutely loved everything that you mentioned. Alternate histories + steampunk + diversity + cats = recipe for magic for me. I am actually so excited to read this now, and I’m going to see if my library has it. If not, I definitely think this one is worth the buy.

    I hope you like the next volume as much as this one!

    1. It’s really good, and I am impatiently waiting for more issues to come out. And Monstress was pretty much my comic book equivalent of a gateway drug. Now I want to read all the comics. 😃