Thursday, July 28, 2016

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening (Issue/Part 1) by Marjorie Liu

Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Image Comics
Title: Monstress #1 (Part 1 of Volume 1)
Author: Marjorie Liu
Illustrator: Sana Takeda
Publisher: Image
Publication Date: July 19, 2016 (Volume 1); November 4, 2015 (original release date, issue #1)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29396738-monstress-vol-1?from_search=true
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers. 

*I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Volume 1 of Monstress, collecting issues #1-6 was released on July 19, 2016; NetGalley split it into parts/issues. I'm going to try doing my reviews that way too. It may be a little hard to prevent spoilers this way, but I will do my best! Oh, and the link above is to order Volume 1, not the individual issues.

After reading part 1 of Monstress, I am in awe and giddily happy that I decided to give this graphic novel a chance. The first thing that struck me were the gorgeous illustrations. I found myself marveling at the pictures on the pages before I even dove into the story, which of course spoiled some of the plot points before I read them. I just couldn't help myself.

The story starts out with a young, naked, shackled girl who is being sold for purposes that aren't entirely clear right away. The girl's name is Maika, and she was referred to as "Arcanic", which seemed to include people that were "other". I got a bit confused, because I assumed it meant everyone who was more than human, but there were also the Cumaea, who seem to be at least partly made up of witches. From what I gather though, the big war was between the human and not-so-human, and thus a wall was built to separate them.

Maika also seems to have something inhuman inside of her, or at least some sort of mental link with an immense, angry creature. She can't actually control when it appears, but it seems to be awakened when she is in extreme duress or severely injured. There is some speculation among the characters about what the creature truly is, however, it is not definitively revealed in this issue. I can't wait to find out more about it; I've seen a little of what it can do and it is mentioned that some believe it was involved in an important battle of the war.

The story jumped around a bit, going back in time occasionally to show how Maika got to where she was when the book started. Sometimes I get annoyed by this, but not in this case. I was eager to see her backstory and find out what led her on the path that she eventually found herself on. The flashbacks also relieved some of my confusion about certain details, although not all. I'm sure I will get answers in subsequent issues.

Monstress was beautifully done; the illustrations were amazing, the story was engaging, and Maika is one of the most kick-ass heroines I've read about in a long time. I can't wait to dive into the next part and immerse myself deeper into this world.

New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer Marjorie Liu is best known for her fiction and comic books. She teaches comic book writing at MIT, and leads a class on Popular Fiction at the Voices of Our Nation (VONA) workshop. Ms. Liu's extensive work includes the bestselling "Astonishing X-Men" for Marvel Comics, which featured the gay wedding of X-Man Northstar and was subsequently nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding media images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Prior to writing full-time, Liu was a lawyer. She currently resides in Boston. Sana Takeda is an illustrator and comic book artist who was born in Niigata, and now resides in Tokyo, Japan. At age 20 she started out as a 3D CGI designer for SEGA, a Japanese video game company, and became a freelance artist when she was 25. She is still an artist, and has worked on titles such as "X-23" and "Ms. Marvel" for Marvel Comics, and is an illustrator for trading card games in Japan.

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