Monstress Volume One: Awakening, is the beginning of your new favourite horror fantasy series written by Marjorie Liu (comic book writer of Black Widow, Dark Wolverine and Astonishing X-Men) and illustrated by Sana Takeda (former designer for SEGA and illustrator for Ms. Marvel as well as X-23 alongside Liu).
Game of Thrones meets Princess Mononoke meets Shadow of the Colossus meets Legend of Korra meets Dark Souls. All are limbs, mechanically Frankenstitched to a steampunk body to create something uniquely organic and memorable.
In the aftermath of the war between the Cumaea, a council of power hungry humans and the magical hybrids known as the Arcanics, the Known World has become a wasteland for the inhumane with slavery and segregation at the helm. Maika Halfwolf, a half-breed girl and survivor of the war, hunts down the answers to her forgotten past and seeks to avenge her dead mother with a mysterious and gruesome entity by her side and a monstrous voice of reason in her mind.
Firstly, Takeda has created the Western steampunk metropolis of Zamora, set against a gorgeous East Asian inspired backdrop. Think Legend of Korra but waaaaay darker! The artwork strikes a balance between supernatural levels of gritty realism– both in flesh and machine, and prophetic panels of menacing mythological minimalism. A masterclass in visualizing emotion on the surface in addition to the loose cogs of an industrial city.
In contrast to the beautiful scenery and characters, this is a visceral and ugly story. I don’t know where Takeda gets her violent and horrifying inspiration from but it never ceased to contort and twist the nerves. As a well-seasoned veteran of bleak imagery myself, I appreciate the maturity especially when it is important and necessary…but good Goddess there is an abundance of darkness and terror here!
It should be noted, with the comparisons to Game of Thrones and Tolkien’s Middle Earth in its ambitious worldbuilding, it is immediately daunting to intake yet another realm of characters, conflicts, races and rules. Thankfully however, much of the background history is explained through several lectures from the esteemed (and adorable) Professor Tam Tam.
Review – Monstress Volume One continues below
Truly, the worldbuilding as a whole is brilliantly executed, one line of dialogue in particular gave me chills with an inspiring and idealistic world view that I have never considered before. Perfectly descriptive of the history of this realm and how the current state of things has changed said history. All I’ll say is that it’s on page 96!
Most importantly, with a generation changing rise in empowerment for our society, Monstress offers a heartwrenching journey that encapsulates the hardships and inner turmoil of all walks of life. Most notably in its overarching matriarchy and relatable diverse cast of characters as well as the bleak shadow of segregation.
Additionally, its more subtle subtexts of mental health and the LGBT+ community offer a new chapter in the Hero’s Journey of inspiration to those battling their own monsters. Furthermore, there’s talking cats if you need a breather from the serious stuff. BALANCE!
To conclude, have you ever experienced something so visceral yet so versatile in its message that you are convinced you are in the presence of something monumental? That is the experience of reading Monstress Volume One: Awakening. This volume shoots high and breaks through the stratosphere of storytelling with a fiery sky of atmospheric artwork left in its trail. A masterpiece all on its own, that isn’t finished yet.
Again, like The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, this is a household treasure for fantasy fans that demands your annual immersion and guarantees itself to be a timeless classic. In a time of sharing the spotlight with ethnic minorities, empowering feminism and overall evolving as human beings, this comic is in a word, essential.
Let us know in the comments your thoughts on our Review of Monstress Volume One the series as a whole with as little spoilers as possible please and if you’d like to see a TV or Film adaption of the series!
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