BooksOfTheMoon

Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild

By Marjorie M. Liu

Rating: 4 stars

I’m really very fond of this series, but I’m starting to lose track of it. At this point, I think I might pause and wait for the story to complete before I go back to it, although I can’t seem to find how long that might be. In this volume, the long-threatened war between humans and arcanics finally erupts, and Maika pauses her own plans to help defend the city of Ravenna.

This volume highlights the bitterness of war and the choices it forces us to make. We’ve always known that Maika is an angry and hard person, but here we see her kill just to make a point to pull others into line. Zinn, meanwhile, has gone from an unknowable creature of shadow to some sort of rambling, lost child, trapped in his own mind.

The one shining light amongst all the misery is Kippa. She doesn’t get it easy here, not by a long shot. She makes mistakes and poor choices, but her heart is pure and, like Maika, I’d drop everything to save her if she needed it.

As for the rest of it, the politics; trying to remember who’s currently possessed by what; the plots and counter-plots; who is allied with whom and why (or who wants to double-cross whom), I think that needs a clear run to be able to follow it. I’ll keep an eye on the series, I think, because the story it’s telling is one worth being told, and Sana Takeda’s artwork remains magnificent, but given the complexity, it’s hard to keep up with the overall story when we only get a few chapters a year.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534316614
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2020

Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen

By Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: 4 stars

With the core group separated, Maika finds her way to her father and learns about his plans in the upcoming war, as well as about Zinn. Kippa has her own adventures and while it seems that her gifts are awakening, she has lost nothing of the sweetness and belief in others that make her my favourite character by a mile: “I can’t abandon people because they make mistakes – I would have to abandon myself” is an example of what makes her so. Despite all she’s been though, all the betrayal, this is still how she thinks, and I love her for it.

The complex storyline does make it difficult to keep track of who’s who, who’s currently allied with who and who’s in the middle of betraying who. I look forward to the story being completed, so that I can go back and read the whole thing in one go.

Takeda’s art is still utterly delightful. The manga-inspired style fits the story well and brings the whole thing alive. Roll on the next volume!

Book details

ISBN: 9781534313361
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2019

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven

By Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: 4 stars

In the third volume of the incredibly pretty Monstress, Maika and her pals enter yet another city while looking for answers. This time, Zinn, the monster living inside her, pretty much manifests itself whole and remains connected to her only by tendrils. By now it feels like the whole world is looking for Maika, and the constant running is getting a bit exhausting (and I’m just reading).

There’s a focus on Kippa that hasn’t been there before, as she continues to prove that she’s the best, sweetest and kindest character in the whole series. I fear that even if she doesn’t die, her innocence will. The cat, Ren, here is quite interesting. I’m conflicted by him. He’s betrayed Maika in the past, but it’s hinted here that he’s not entirely acting of his own volition and I’ll be interested to see where that goes.

Once again, Maika continues to make poor decisions, and sometimes it feels like she’s a sulky teenager. She’s got the attitude and the manners, although she does also have the strength to rip you limb from limb (quite literally). This, tied to anger management issues, causes a problem. I don’t find her hugely sympathetic, to be honest.

I’m glad that I read the whole three volumes in pretty quick succession, since otherwise I think I would really have struggled with all the different factions, who’s currently betraying whom and who or what is currently possessed by tentacled horrors with too many eyes.

The storytelling and panel layout sometimes felt a little muddled and it took a few reads of a few pages to figure out the structure and what was going on. Despite this, the art remains absolutely stunning and the little comic drawing of Seizi cuddling a young Maika at the back is worth the price alone.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534306912
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2018

Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood

By Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: 4 stars

The second volume of Monstress is just as lushly illustrated as the first. It’s an absolutely beautiful piece of art. It can also be incredibly violent and grotesque at times as well, so beware, if you have problems with that.

Maika Halfwolf, the fox cub that she rescued in volume one and the cat, Master Ren, have travelled to the pirate city of Thyria in search of answers about Maika’s past and her mother, as well as of the mask fragment that she carries and the monster living inside her. Their search takes them to the Isle of Bones and yet more questions.

I find Maika both inspiringly strong-willed and frustratingly stubborn. She makes poor decisions and fails to make sure of those around her who might offer her aid. And yet, we still feel for her. We learn more about the creature inside her in this volume and we get more of Kippa, who is the innocent caught in the centre of all this. The way things are going, I fear for her, before the series is over. There’s machinations between different political factions and war grows ever closer.

For all its unyielding hardness and its violence, the core story here is intriguing, and the world-building remains excellent. Combined with Sana Takeda’s incredible art, I look forward to the next volume.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534300415
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening

By Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: 4 stars

I had never heard of this series before it won the Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2017. I’m quite glad that I did pick it up though, as it’s got an intriguing story and is lushly drawn. It’s got a very striking first page, with a full page image of a naked woman, and it’s only on second glance that you see the missing arm from the elbow down, the collar and the anger in her eyes. The woman is Maika Halfwolf and the story takes a flying start from there, as we’re thrown into this rather horrific steampunk world, with Maika trying to find out about herself, her mother and her history while trying to stay alive and out of the hands of the many factions who want to either kill or use her.

The world that the story is set in is fascinating. There are dead gods, immortals mating with humans to create a race of magic-using Arcanics and a war that could destroy everything. There’s a monster inside Maika that she struggles to understand, much less control, but as the fox-child Kippa says, monsters are people too.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and although I’ve reread segments, I think it’s probably worth rereading the whole thing. I certainly look forward to the next volume to see what Maika, Kippa, the cat Ren and Maika’s monster get up to next.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632157096
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2016

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