"Monstress: Volume 1 - Awakening" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Huck Raj Talwar
Published by Image Comics
Illustrated by Sana Takeda
2016, 192 pages, $9.99
Trade paperback on July 13th, 2016
Monstress: Volume 1 collects issues 1—6 of the series. This book is chock-full of brilliant storytelling and stunning artwork. In a world with humans, fantastical creatures, sorceresses, and more, the first arc centers on Maika Halfwolf, a humanoid Arcanic (a race of people), living a life no less than tortuous. She deals with the harsh reality of butting heads with the Cumaea, a coven of witches. The Cumaea and the Arcanics are on the verge of a war, and Maika is stuck in the middle of it.
Writer Marjorie Liu orchestrates a really complex world for this book. But rather than easing us into it, Liu drops us right into a strong narrative that she clearly has set in mind. I can definitely respect the fact that Liu has a vision and sticks with it, but without all too much help, the reader is bound to get confused.
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However, once we get some explanations and history lessons here and there, this world stops getting confusing and becomes intriguing. The storyline is coated in love, violence, gore, and plot twists. Despite the initial confusion of the fantasy aspect to this horror masterpiece, Liu’s writing is undoubtedly worth your time.
Artist Sana Takeda is responsible for the pencils and colors in this book, both of which look phenomenal. These illustrations are so detailed, so in depth, that we can see everything from the wrinkles in a character’s skin to the movement of their hair in a breeze. The designs for the more fantastical beings are absolutely gorgeous. I think my favorite has to be that of the “ghosts of dead gods.” We see a multi-horned, three-eyed, hairy, filigree-filled, huge creature… especially against the light, it looks positively ethereal.
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Within each character, we can see his/her personality through their respective physical appearances. Takeda uses a somewhat manga-influenced art style to show us how strong Maika is and how innocent Kippa is. When Takeda wants the tone of the story to change, it shifts gracefully and seamlessly within the context of the plot. Along with this, Takeda’s backgrounds build the world that Liu has created. With a detailed look at the expanse of this universe and fluid action sequences amid it all, this is easily the best artwork I’ve seen this month.
There are very few legitimate criticisms one can have about this book. Beyond those trifling and trivial things that people might say it suffers from is a fantasy world soaked in horror and drama. Monstress: Volume 1 will grab your attention and hold on until you, somehow, sever the tie yourself. Good luck with that.