Review: Monstress #1

In an alternate version of Asia in the 1900s. Mystical creatures and humans roam the land, but they live as far away from harmony as they get. It’s a war-torn world where the human side treats the “Arcanics” as mere animals, to be traded and sold for their own uses. In the middle of all, a young teen Aranic Maika who has gotten herslef captured and taken by the Cumaea and more importantly a witch with a mad scientist complex. The first couple of pages set up what we need to know: Why did Maika get captured?  What happened in the war? What does that eye symbol in her chest mean? And there is plenty of time to start answering those questions as well as giving us a sleuth of new ones, as this is a 60 plus page comic for a whole $5 (Image really nailed down how to get us to buy a new book). Monstress-#1The world feels huge and epic. As the first issue unfolds, our main character transforms from being someone with a single purpose to being part of a much larger story in which she must find herself. Maika is an outsider looking in and budges her way into what is now a giant world halfway in motion. This story takes you and gradually opens the massive world Marjorie Liu’s crafted, without feeling overwhelmed, the expotion is well paced, giving you what we need to keep turning the page, and also knowing that Liu has plenty of time to deliver everything you need to buy the next issue. With all its grand proportions and giant world, the story is continuously grounding itself with a very real and personal journey, which is the reason Maika got herself cpatured. Her gradual changes come as we  become more and more accepting of the world, the mysticism of it all never feels overwhelming. At no point I felt like I forcibly had to suspend my disbelief, as it could easily happen with a story with these proportions and when magical elements are introduced to the story too quickly. Monstress doesn’t shy away from letting you know that this is an alternate world where magic exists, a war destroyed everything that resembled peace and harmony, and there are witches, magic artifacts, and different creatures, but it won’t show you everything right away. Monstress waited for me to want to see all the action and then showed me what Maika could be capable of.

The art is just astonishing. This are over 60 pages of great flow and panels that match the story in the epicness of it all, but also giving you the intimacy necessary when it comes to developing the characters, their expressions, and the interactions with one another. The colors capture the tone of the book perfectly by giving you all a sepia that surrounds everything in an aura of mysticism. When the tone is light (which is a term I use softly) the whole thing is embraced by a never ending sunset that give more depth to the dialogue. Sana Takeda uses all of her talent to portray the beauty of those epic animes and mangas we love like Escaflowne and adds a monstrous flavor to it with depoictions of creatures that resemble those of Junji Ito with her use of lines and monsters with vertical eyes. Yet the difference here is that instead of being afraid of the monsters, Takeda manages to make them seem both intimidating but in a majestic way, something we would want to reach but we are aware we can’t and we decide to stand back and admire instead.

Marjorie Liu uses full strenght of her prose writing background to establish one of the richest worlds since Saga. With Sana Takeda’s amazing art, paneling, and colors, added to the great price of this book, there is no way Image comics doesn’t have another smash hit on their hands.

Score: 5/5

Monstress #1 Writer: Marjorie Liu Artist: Sana Takeda Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 11/4/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digiatl