Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here’s Why You Should Read Monstress

Take a war-torn, matriarchal version of 1900s Asia. Add a dash of steampunk, a pinch of magic, and a whole lot of horror. This is the world that Maika Halfwolf, the protagonist of Marjorie Liu’s ongoing comic series Monstress, must travel through in order to avenge her dead mother. After growing up as a prisoner of war, Maika is full of hatred and anger--and, even worse, an ancient, bloodthirsty god who lives just beneath her skin. This creature, otherwise known as a Monstrum, is both unimaginably powerful and uncontrollably hungry, and Maika’s struggle to harness its powers for good (or as close to good as it can get) is at the core of the series. Need more prompting? Here are four reasons to give Monstress a try.

Note: Monstress is aimed at mature readers. 

1. It’s Diverse

Monstress #1
“There’s more hunger in the world than love.
(Edit by warlordsregiment on Tumblr. Source)
During her journey, Maika meets people and creatures from all walks of life: half-animal, half-human demigods known as Arcanics, witch-nuns, talking cats, soldiers, scholars, slaves. The cast is far from whitewashed, and also diverse when it comes to age, including a centuries-old monster, a very young girl, and a teenager. (Maika is seventeen.)

2. It’s Beautiful

Sure, they’re tons of gorgeous comics out there. It would be hard, though, to find another one this elaborate. When it comes to worldbuilding, the art does as much heavy-lifting as the text, drawing you into Maika’s frightening yet enchanting world. No detail is too small, and the Monstra are especially well-done. Sana Takeda’s illustrations show them to be both terrifying and weirdly beautiful. It’s easy to see why some Arcanics worship them. 

3. It’s Dark

Like creepiness and gore mixed in with your fantasy? Then Monstress is the comic for you: the fact that Maika shares her body with a ravenous Lovecraftian god makes for plenty of both. Going deeper, Monstress deals with themes—war, slavery, and genocide, to name a few—that are just as horrifying but more realistic. But despite all the blood and guts, this is not a world without hope. Even Maika, who considers herself damaged beyond saving, is capable of pity, mercy, and love. 

4. It’s Empowering

Image result for monstress comic
With a mostly female cast that flips the traditional guys-to-girls ratio in fantasy, Monstress gives its characters room to grow beyond typical stereotypes, showing that women can be kind, cruel, powerful, brutal, intelligent, damaged, spiteful, innocent, moral, immoral, or somewhere in-between. Maika isn’t particularly feminine, or, at times, even particularly likable. She is, however, a complex, fully-formed character whose limitations aren’t defined by traditional gender roles. And what’s more empowering than that?

Have you read Monstress? What are some of your favorite comics?


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