By Ben Snyder
Monstress #13 begins the newest story arc in Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s sprawling fantasy epic. While still bogged down by some of the issues that plagued it previously, Monstress #13 introduces enough wrinkles into the Monstress formula to spice it up a bit while also providing a fun and entertaining read.
While still on the run from the blood queens, Maika and crew find temporary refuge in the heavily shielded and protected Pontus territories. Here Maika, Kippa, and Ren plan their permanent escape from the blood queens with the help of an unexpected friend. I feel like this issue being oversized, actually worked against Marjorie Liu’s script as it too often deviated and felt unfocused. I would have much rather preferred a tighter more focused issue surrounding solely on Maika and her crew instead of weird cutaway scenes to Tuya or some spies working for the prime minister of the Federation.
Which brings me to another key flaw in this issue, the history of the world and its characters while expansive and impressive is becoming wild and untamed. I feel like before every issue they Liu needs to draw out a complex and detailed map explaining what everything means and to whom because it’s bogging down the overall quality of the series.
And that’s the good news, the aspects that work in this issue really do work. Perhaps the greatest revelation in this entry is simply how funny it was. Starting with the giant sea monster basically cursing out the blood witches like a fed up secretary. It was genuinely funny and it squashed a lot of tension that has been built up. We also got some new character development from Maika. Often times in the past, I found her very one note- being angry. But this issue opened up with a moment of tenderness between Maika and Tuya. Granted it was a dream, but it showed that Maika can be more than just angry. She also showed some humor while eating with Kippa and Rin as well. Hopefully Liu introduces more and more humor into the series as often times it can just get totally brought down by lore and moments of grandeur.
Sana Takeda’s art is stellar as always. It seems like every new issue of Monstress brings proof that Takeda may be the best fantasy artist producing work as of now. Her fantastic monster designs, beautiful environments, and gory violence are simply stunning. The part that kept drawing my attention this issue was the eyes of Tuya and Maika during the introduction scene. The characters eyes had this glass doll’s eye quality that I didn’t even think was possible to create through drawing. It’s simply amazing and it only added to the dream state of the scene.
Takeda’s depiction of Tear Shed, the refugee camp Maika and company are stationed at, is detailed lovingly. It resembles Venice if only it was built around a giant tree structure. It perfectly encapsulates what Takeda has continually done well in this series and that is blending the fantastical with the realistic. There’s another instance of this in this issue when the spies meet the Prime Minister in the seemingly abandoned train. The vines of ivy that trap the train evoke a time long gone, as if this new world exists hundreds of years after our time.
At this point, new readers should be warned about Monstress. It’s convoluted lore and history can cause a headache for even it’s most devoted fans sometimes. But if you have been keeping up with the series, Monstress #13 provides more of what to of what you love- giant monsters, Maika being a badass, and Takeda fantastic art.