Monday, August 1, 2016

Monstress Volume 1 (Issues/Parts 2-6) by Marjorie Liu

Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Image Comics

I've previously reviewed Monstress Part 1 here on the blog. Since I've already addressed many of the major themes, I'm going to combine my reviews of Parts 2 - 6 into one post. If you missed my review of Part 1, you can check it out here. And after you finish reading that, you'll want to go and buy a copy of Volume 1 for yourself!

Issue/Part 2

 Maika fights to cross the wall. Elsewhere, the Warlord makes her move.

In Part 2 we are introduced more fully to the Inquisitrixes, led by Mother Superior, who were only briefly mentioned in the first part. They are basically the muscle for the Cumaea (the witch-nuns who side with the Federation of Man). At this point, the war between the Arcanics and the Federation of Man (humans) is at a standstill, and has been for years, but the two sides are still very tense and hateful toward the other. It seems the Inquisitrixes are not above killing their own kind in order to increase fear toward the Arcanics, so it is only a matter of time before war erupts again. 

I didn't really touch on any of the secondary characters in my previous review, but it would be difficult to discuss them all. Tuya, Maika's best friend, doesn't make an appearance, however, she does send a two-tailed cat in her place named Ren. He serves as a sort of guide along the way, warning Maika against some of the choices she is making. Along for the ride as well is a young human/fox hybrid named Kippa, who Maika helped escape from certain Cumaean mutilation. The trio get help from a human woman who only wants peace between the two sides, but of course things don't stay worry free for long. An Inquisitrix is after them because Maika stole something very valuable from the witch-nuns, and they'll do anything to get it back. 

All of the characters are just amazing. Even the most evil, nefarious of the bunch are interesting and well-developed; you love to hate them. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the Inquisitrixes; I'm not rooting for them by any means, I just find them fascinating. The end of course leaves you incredibly anxious for the story to continue, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers I can't tell you why. If you've ever read a comic/graphic novel, you know that cliffhangers are par for the course.

Some of the things I was confused about previously were answered after reading this part. I liked that at the very end they included an excerpt from Professor Tam Tam, a cat that is well versed in history. Each issue from here on has one of these excerpts, and it really helps the reader understand the world a lot better. The more I read though, the more I wish there was a glossary of terms. Perhaps Volume 1 does have this; I know it would make things a lot easier, unless I'm the only one that got confused by all of the details and lore. 

Issue/Part 3
Maika must confront the deadly secrets that live inside her.

As the very short description says, Maika becomes more aware of the being that is sharing her body. She is understandably shaken by the fact that she is not always in total control of her body, but Ren, the two-tailed cat, stops her from doing anything drastic.

I think Kippa, the fox girl, really showed some potential in this issue. She always seemed terrified and weak; a victim, not a hero. When the Cumaea first show up, she runs and tries to hide her scent so they can't find her. As an Arcanic she would be killed on sight or worse, chopped apart to make lilium. Then she sees that the human who helped her and Maika escape is in trouble, so she throws aside her fear and does what she has to in order to save her friend. 

The history lesson at the end gives a little more insight into what may have caused war in the first place. It was nice to have such a big question at least partially answered. 

Issue/Part 4

Maika's world becomes even more dangerous.

This issue introduces us to the Ancients, who are almost completely animal-like in appearance. The Arcanics are the result of the mixing of Ancient and human gene pools. The Warlord's conversation with the Wolf Queen of the Dawn court reveals the real reason for the stalemate in the war.

I enjoyed the interactions between Maika and the Monstrum living inside of her. Although its hunger seems a bit barbaric, it is essentially trapped and it's hard not to feel some sympathy. It seems like if they could work together, they would be an unstoppable team. I wonder what would happen if someone found all of the pieces of the mask though; my guess it that they would have control over the Monstrum, but I'm not completely sure yet.

I loved the ending with the introduction of a new character. The illustration was gorgeous and I'm excited to find out if this intriguing character will end up being friend or foe. 

Issue/Part 5
Maika struggles with the monster inside.

I really enjoyed this issue, because the beginning gives some insight into what Maika and Tuya have been through, in the form of a flashback. Even when things were bleak, they clung to each other. Some other characters I thought I had figured out, but learned that all is not what it seems. I like that even when I think I have things figured out, the author is still able to throw me for a loop.

Each issue brings more clarity to the story. This time more light was shed on each of the different races: cats, humans, Arcanics, and the Ancients, and the old Gods. It does not paint the old Gods in a flattering light, calling them "horrors". All of this info, again, comes at the end of the story and is told by a cat (presumably Professor Tam Tam again). It's hard to tell if the description of the old Gods was accurate or simply a bias about something no one knows much about other than stories passed down through generations. From what we've seen of the Monstrum thus far, needing to drain living things for sustenance, it wouldn't be hard to believe what the cat says is true. So I guess it's hard to argue that they are misunderstood, but I'm sure future issues will reveal more about these powerful beings.

Issue/Part 6
Maika and her friends face betrayal and death, and only the monster inside — and her growing relationship with it — can save them.

Finally, I understand what the mask is used for and how Maika is connected to it all! It certainly makes things even more perilous and it is probably best if the rest of the mask is never found. With all of the people looking for it and for Maika, it's only a matter of time. 

There is a major twist at the end, one I probably should have seen coming but it caught me so off guard. It makes me wonder if there is anyone Maika can truly count on. Honestly, if she can trust anyone it's Kippa. That little fox girl is fierce when it comes to her friends. As timid as she is normally, when someone she cares about it is in trouble she will stand up to whatever the threat is, even if it means almost certain death. At first it seemed like she would be a hindrance, someone that would need to be taken care of and protected, but she is proving to be a valuable asset and ally. 

The history lesson in this issue gave more information about the Cumaea and finally explains who Marium is. It was certainly not what I was expecting, since people speak of her as if she was God, but to the ones that revere her I suppose that is an accurate description. 

This brings Volume 1 to a close, and I am still just in awe of how amazing the Monstress series is. I didn't think there would be another series that would wow me as much as Saga, but this one definitely has. I was able to read issues #1-6, which make up Volume 1, for free through NetGalley, but I am ordering my own copy to put on my shelf. Monstress returns in September 2016 with issue #7, and I am so excited! I can't wait to find out what happens next with all of the characters.

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