Released today, Monstress Volume One is the latest and greatest from Image. Featuring blistering artwork from renowned artist Sana Takeda(X-23, Ms. Marvel) and a dense and richly packed story from the brilliant mind of Marjorie Liu(X-23, Black Widow). Monstress is one book you’ll want to get your hands on. I found myself blown away by the awe-inspiring complexity of Takeda’s beautiful artwork. I was immediately compelled to picked up a special edition hard copy at Comic-Con this year. Powerful, compelling, and chock-full of complex characters, Monstress feels like all the best parts of Final Fantasy, Game of Thrones, and Shadow of Colossus all rolled into one behemoth of a book. If you have any inkling of interest in this book pick it up immediately!
First off, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The entire reason I bought monstress was the artwork left my jaw on the floor. Sana Takeda proves she is a force to be reckoned with. Takeda doesn’t pull any of the punches when it comes to just how beautiful this book truly is. I found myself staring at panels that a lesser artist would have rushed. I was in awe of how much lush detail and work went into every wrinkle or piece of clothing. Everything down to the colors transport you straight into the world of Monstress. So lush and heady is the sense of atmosphere that you can almost breathe the air. Oh, and did I forget to mention how much style is dripping off these glorious pages. Every detail is wrought in glorious definition. So much of the wonderful art deco and art nouveau motifs really add a great aesthetic and feel to the world of Monstress.
I could literally sit and stare at the entirety of beautiful images without any exposition at all. Thankfully, the ever masterful Marjorie Liu is at the wheel of this plot heavy beast. Monstress is a story as complex and layered as you could ever imagine. The audience enters the story during an armistice between two great nations. The Federation and the Arcanics have long been at war with one another until an event in the city of Constantine spurs both sides to consider peace. Enter seventeen year old Maika Halfwolf, an arcanic missing her left arm and being sold for auction. Quickly the audience is thrown into a world whose moral compass was lost millennia ago. The stresses of the war and pure disdain have allowed both sides to dehumanize and objectify each other. A stately and elegant woman from the Cumaea, a politically and militarily powerful coven of witches, demands Maika and several other arcanics be transfer to her possession without charge. Once in the custody of the Cumaea the truly hellish nature of the organization is revealed and we see maimed and dismembered Arcanics being tortured, dissected, and imprisoned.
The story evolves from there and exposes a lot of the inter-political groundwork. What I appreciated most, though, was that the author never once treats the audience like idiots. The dialogue incredibly well crafted. I regularly found myself going back and re-reading things I had missed during the first pass. Heady, pseudo religious conversations of the ghosts of dead gods roaming the earth. Complex inter-political strife between members of the same organization. Hints dropped between covert operatives. All of it makes this perhaps one of the most enjoyable reads I have had in awhile. And who can forget history lessons between issues from the ever accessible Professor Tam Tam.
In summary, this is definitively the book to look out for this year. A powerhouse combo, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are among the best in the industry and continue to prove their metal in what has too long been, and still is, a boys club. Every single page stands as a piece of art and the rich story elevates the story to the level of a spectacular epic. In the hands of anyone else, Monstress would seem like too much packed in too little, but I assure you, this is one book you shouldn’t miss! To quote the poets… Get it now!