Ana’s adventures in reading comics continue with a spotlight on Monstress vol 1 and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur vol 1
With gorgeous artwork by Sana Takeda and a gripping storyline from Marjorie Liu, Monstress vol. 1: Awakening collects issues #1-6 of the Monstress comics. It’s Dark Fantasy meets mythology against the backdrop of an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia with different types of peoples – and monsters.
A teenage girl named Maika is the protagonist. A survivor of war, an orphan, Maika seeks answers: about who she really is, about the mysteries surrounding her mother (and her power) and about the monster who lives inside her. The latter is probably the most important aspect of all of this: who is Maika, really? Does the monster in her, makes her a monstress?
I had read issue #1 as soon as it came out months ago and had been biding my time to read the whole of the first arc together (I think it works better this way: a whole mini-arc in trade). I am glad to report that the things I loved about that first issue carry on being awesome throughout.
Both the art and the story are intricate, deep and mesmerising. The different peoples are lovingly portrayed and there is a strong sense of an epic-in-the-making here. This first issue is introduction, set-up and groundwork rolled into one. It’s easy to tell that there has been a lot of thought put into world-building.
This is a story about war, yes. It also depicts slavery, dehumanisation of entire races and oppression. As such, this comic can be brutal, bloody and grim. Above all, this is a story about identity, and politics and freedom fighting. It features friends and allies and a young woman coming into her own and realising she is not powerless.
Last week I was talking about writing women in the context of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and how, even though that book features a bunch of female characters, they all sounded the same. Monstress is a prime example of the opposite: there is a plethora of female characters here and although some of them share similar motivations, they are not the same.
One thing of note is the dearth of male characters and I love that this is a deliberate choice by the author, as per the interview we ran with Marjorie Liu:
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie or television show where there are a ton of guys — and just a handful of women in the cast of characters? That’s so not my book. I very much wanted to reverse those numbers and tell a story where the baseline is a ton of women, and a handful of dudes. There’s no disease that wiped out men, in the same way there’s no disease that wiped out women in all these other forms of entertainment where women don’t seem to exist. Women — women of color — just happen to be the mainstream in Monstress. The fact that this isn’t something we take for granted says a lot about the state of female representation in popular entertainment.
SO! This is brilliant on all counts.
Favourite part: Maika eats her own arm. Because hunger.
Now, after you finish reading Monstress with all of its bloody brutality and the grim and dark of its world, it is very likely you will need a pick-me-up. LOOK NO FURTHER: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is here to help.
A reboot of an old 70s comic Devil Dinosaur and its adventures with Moon Boy, the new comic features Moon Girl – an African American kid named Lunella Lafayette.
Lunella is a genius – the type who could totally stand side by side with the likes of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner – who is bent on discovering a way of inhibiting the inhuman gene from being triggered. Lunella is certain she is an inhuman and her greatest fear is that she will become something other, something not herself.
Her parents don’t really get her fears, her school is not prepared to nurture her intelligence and as such Lunella finds herself alone and scared, working on her lab.
Enter… Devil Dinosaur!
The beast is teleported from the prehistoric past to our times, where he and Moon Girl will go on adventures trying to stop the Killer People from controlling The Device. Meanwhile, Lunella is running out of time. This was super cute, with a side of fun, and another side of hell yeah, Lunella is awesome.
This comic features: cool science, unexpected friendships, a dinosaur with fiery eyes and a little girl who cares about her identity. If you like Lumberjanes, Nimona, Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, this is your next pick.
Side note: there is a new Hulk??????
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur vol 1: BFF by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos (Illustrator) collects issues #1-6.
What about you, what comics have you been reading lately that you think I should give a go?