Comics Review: “Monstress” by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

In Monstress, Marjorie Liu has created a dark and twisted world of magic and chaos. The first issue opens with our heroine, Maika, being sold into slavery, and through these first pages the reader slowly comes to piece together the history of Maika’s world.  There has been a long war between the human race and the Arcanic people, otherworldly folk – sometimes with wings or horns or a busy fox tail – that are treated monstrously by humans. Maika is Arcanic, and she’s out for blood, although only the barest beginnings of her story are pieced together in the first issue.

Maika and her fellow slaves are taken to a compound of Cumean nuns, but in Liu’s world, this order is anything but benevolent. Here, Arcanic people – often children – are dismembered and used for experiments, or even eaten. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Monstress is violent, so if that’s not you’re thing, I suggest you pass on this one despite its captivating premise. Takeda’s art is done in muted colors, but is richly imagined and hypnotizingly lovely, its dark beauty perfectly complimenting the violent world Liu has conjured. Before the issue is through, we’re given tantalizing clues into the full trajectory of Liu’s story, and I, for one was definitely left wanting more. But even in one issue Liu has already given so much to the story – a brave and enigmatically powerful heroine, whispers of dark secrets, and horrible crimes that need to be avenged. Issue #2 hasn’t yet been released, but you can bet I’ll be looking for it when it is!

Finally, I can’t let this review end withoug pointing out how awesome it is that this comic is created by two women of color and features primarily women of color as characters, both good and bad. It’s a changing world for comics, and it’s so refreshing to read a comic that doesn’t sexualize or marginalize its female characters, especially as Monstress is so violent (a trope in comics that has predominantly belonged to media created by and for males). Violence may not be your thing as a reader, and that’s okay, but it’s an extremely powerful force for narrative, and has too long been held up as unladylike and inappropriate for female-driven narratives. In Liu and Takeda’s hands, I can’t wait to see what comes next for Monstress!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.