It would not be an exaggeration to say I have been in tenterhooks about Monstress since I first heard about it back in January. Monstress is a new creator-owned title by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda and published by Image Comics.
The title was announced by Marjorie Liu in early 2015 with the following titbit:
“Monstress is about an outsider, a young woman who belongs nowhere; it is about young women who fight, who tame, who are consumed—and who become monsters in their own right.”
“I wanted to tell a story that encompasses all these things, and more. A story about women, young and old, picking up the pieces after surviving the horrors of war—and finding a home for themselves in a world that has otherwise exploited them. Set in an alternate history to our own, where immense Cloverfield-like monstrosities have conquered half the planet, and spanning the steppes of a shattered Asia, to the destroyed heart of a fallen Europe, Monstress is an epic adventure of frontiers and empires, and the rise of a young woman warrior, whose power may either doom or redeem the planet.”
Is anyone surprised I have been consumed by the need to read this?
Well, it’s finally here: the first issue is out today and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the comics deliver on its premise, in spades.
The story opens with a bang: a young woman, enslaved and bound, standing naked in a room being auctioned to potential buyers. The room is luscious, rich. The words said by the potential buyers as horrifying as the event happening on screen. However, the narration tells us something different is afoot: the young woman is the narrator, the heroine and she tells of a mission. Soon it becomes clear that she is there with a purpose.
So, the story begins. Maika is the protagonist, one of the survivors of a cataclysmic war, a refugee who hasn’t found a place to call her own, not yet. Someone who “passes” as human, hence her “value” (how terrible is this idea?). The narrative is very keen on offering different looks at how women – above all – have chosen to survive after the war. They are clearly both the villains and the heroes of this comic.
Now, this is only issue #1 and even though it has a robust 64 pages of comics (no ads) , it offers more questions than answers. Secrets abound: there are mysteries about family, about who Maika really is, her revenge, about the monster(?) she shares her body with. It’s pretty dark and sometimes unsettling especially when Maika takes surprising steps (surprising because we don’t expect women to behave like that?) to do what must be done.
The art by Sana Takeda is wondrous. There is no other possible word for it. It more than complements the story: it amplifies it, it makes it darker and bolder, it is phenomenally beautiful, beauty like I haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Billed as “A dark fantastic adventure set in an alternate 1900s Asia”, Monstress is telling a story of identity, of war, of women. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
In other words: Monstress so far it’s promising, it’s beautiful and it is well worth your time.
Rating: 8 – Excellent