Volume I of Monstress, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda, contains the first six issues of the chilling but beautifully drawn comic series. As such, it plunges us into the deep end of the tense ceasefire between the Arcanics and humans. But Maika Halfwolf is on a personal quest that seems likely to send both sides back to armed conflict. Just to make things more interesting, Maika also finds herself on the front lines of a mystical battle that she never expected.
The first issue of Monstress opens with Maika apparently being sold to her enemies. I had no idea what was going on and I was instantly worried once Maika’s captors started to reveal what was going to happen to Maika and her fellow Arcanics. Fortunately (at least for some of them), Maika managed to achieve her goal. The problem is that she was working on her own and her bloody actions in the first issues of the series put the humans and the Arcanics back on war footing.
A lot of people die in these first issues. If you’re at all squeamish, you might want to give this series a miss. Even with all the blood, Monstress is beautifully drawn. It has a steampunk art nouveau sensibility that I like a lot. The panels are so packed with detail that I had to go back to look at the background after I finished the dialog on a page.
The first issues of Monstress set up a massive story. There are brief pages, narrated by a scholarly four-tailed cat, that give a bit more of the history of this world and its peoples and conflicts. They’re welcome additions because the world-building in this series is astoundingly complex. I’m hooked because I just want to know what the hell happens next and how Maika is going to get herself out of the all the trouble she just landed in.