Monstress Volume 1: Awakening

Monstress Vol. 1: AwakeningWritten by: Marjorie Liu
Illustrated by: Sana Takeda
Publisher: Image Comics
Format: Softcover, 7 x 11, 192 pages, Full Color, $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-63215-709-6

Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf

Writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda's Monstress is an engrossing and complex debut introducing readers to a girl's quest for revenge, and the world-changing effects that threatens to have.

Maika Halfwolf is the survivor of a devastating war that divided the peoples of her world: humans, the immortal animal-like Ancients, and the hybrid race Arcanics (of which Maika is one). Seeking revenge for the death of her mother, she gets herself into the clutches of a member of the witch-nun order the Cumaea, who rule humanity through cruelty and fear. In the midst of taking her vengeance against her mother's killer, she discovers a photo of herself and her mother along with unknown people, and part of a mask that calls to her. After her escape, Maika is hunted by the Cumaea, who use her people’s bodies to fuel their magic. As she tries to avoid the Cumaea's clutches, deeper mysteries unfold around her, particularly as she discovers an ancient monster living within her, who’s been with her family for generations. As Maika learns more about herself and her world, she finds the answers may bring destruction to herself and the entire world.

In Monstress, Liu presents a complex, multi-layered, and fully-formed book, both in its setting and in plot. A deep mythology runs through this world, which features elements reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, ancient Egyptian mythology, colonial Europe, early 20th Century Asia, Art Deco, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Within this, characters from several races and orders move in concert and conflict, many with their own private agendas. Liu manages to make the characters feel full and engaging, and even manages to bring humor into scenes filled with portent and danger.

Takeda's art brings this world to life, with intricate line work, a breath-taking attention to detail, and vibrant coloring that draws the reader in immediately. This graphic novel looks gorgeous, and warrants slow reading just to take in the elaborate visuals.

With its byzantine machinations and rich fantasy world, Monstress should appeal to fans of Game of Thrones, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, or Saga, and is suggested for Adult (18+) readers due to language, violence, and potentially disturbing elements of the story.