Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Monstress Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 18, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

monstressWritten by Marjorie Liu

Art by Sana Takeda

Letters by Rus Wooton

Edits by Jennifer M. Smith

Published by Image



In the wake of a horrific war between the Cumaea, a group of witches and the Monstra, decried as monsters, an uneasy peace has fallen. In the middle of that, Maika Halfwolf, a young woman missing an arm and every answer goes looking for what’s missing.

She is not alone when she does.


This is one of the best fantasy stories you’ll read this year. It stands side by side with Kai Ashante Wilson’s astounding Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and Alter S. Reiss’ phenomenal Sunset Mantle as a fantastic piece of worldbuilding, character work and the start of a massive, gripping story.

But this has something the two novellas don’t. The art of Sana Takeda. There’s a very definite cinematic feel to the issue and a lot of that is down to Takeda. The detail here is absolute but never overpowering and each one of the characters registers as a real, fragile human. In some cases that heightens the awful sense of doom pervading the book, a doom that can be traced directly to Maika.

Liu’s script is astounding, dense, elegantly packed with world building and pulling no punches. It orbits Maika like planets round a sun and from the first page to the last it’s a book defined by her actions. Liu talks about the origins of the character in the back matter but even without that you can see the rage coming off her in waves. Maika is a survivor, a woman who has had everything taken from her including the reason why and she’s no longer prepared to tolerate any of it. Her plan here is as simple as it is borderline suicidal and a lesser writer would have had Maika not see that. Liu makes sure she’s painfully aware of it the whole time, and that doesn’t slow Maika down at all. She’s driven, focused and disturbing even before you get to her secret.

That’s where the book’s brilliance comes through, more so even than in the subtle scripting details or beautiful art. This entire, vast first issue is both a complete story and a prologue. The forces that oppose Maika, and the ones that she can barely control, are vast, active and coming closer. The war that’s coming may dwarf the war that she survived.

Monstress pulls no punches and gives no ground, much like its lead. It’s complex, dense, involving writing which trusts you to catch up. You will too. Heart-breaking, beautiful and unique. Better still, it and Maika, are just getting started.

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