COMICS REVIEW: The beautifully monstrous "Monstress #22"

Written by Marjorie Liu, Art, Cover, and Colors by Sana Takeda

Monstress is only 22 issues old, but the title has already won two Hugo Awards for Best Graphic Story, one for Best Professional Artist, and five Eisner Awards.

I had noticed Monstress several times before, and appreciated its intricate, magnificent covers, and elegant masthead typography, but was never curious enough to find out more. However, after seeing the book has won this much acclaim, I had to give Monstress a try.

"Monstress #22" cover art by the award-winning Sana Takeda

The inside front cover does an excellent job filling you in on what has happened in the story so far, and gives bios of all the characters. After reading this page, I did not feel hesitant to enter into a story that is already so far along.

The lead character is Maika, an Arcanic (witch) teen girl who is a survivor of war, slavery, and the murder of her mother. As if that weren’t enough for her to deal with, she also has an “ancient and dangerous god” of tremendous power called a Monstrum imprisoned in her body, constantly fighting her for control. She is on a mission to discover the truth about her mother’s murder, the secrets to freeing herself of the Monstrum, and to find her young Arcanic companion Kippa, who has also escaped from slavery.

This issue opens with Kippa and a very foul-mouthed Yafaela, one of her slave captors, looking for a way out of the cave of the deadly Tomb of Baru, which Kippa dove into trying to escape, and where Yafaela followed. Immediately, I fell in love with the interesting, entertaining dialogue between these two characters. This is not going to be a dour, depressing story, but a fun one!

A taste of the entertaining dialogue found in "Monstress"

The art also gives that same playful, fun feeling, as it is attractively illustrated in a very organic, slightly sketchy Manga style by artist Sana Takeda of Japan. The expertly moody coloring adds to this “playful” feeling, with a loose watercolor appearance. Between Takeda's imagination and her masterfully graceful and intricate renderings, even the monsters are beautiful in their own way.

The philosophical discussion between a resident of the cave and the young Kippa about the outside world is one that could easily reflect the real-life world we live in today.

Meanwhile, a war council is convening with Maika and her estranged father in attendance, to determine what they can do, if anything, to defeat more Monstrums and old gods if they continue to enter their world. They are rightfully paranoid about powerful beings that can possess anyone, with no outward way to detect them; so they are rightfully wary, knowing Maika's monstrous secret. The “war-masters” are a wonderfully designed collection of humans, aliens, and human/animal hybrids, all spouting more delightful dialogue and wisdom from writer Marjorie Liu. I love her writing style and sense of humor, but I do think having so many characters be so profane, so often, distracted from the story for me.

I can highly recommend adding Monstress to your reading list; it is worthy of the accolades that have already come its way.

Monstress #22 releases May22, 2019 from Image Comics.

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