If you want to learn more about all encompassing world-building and grand story telling, then Monstress by Marjorie Liu is for you.
Typically stories that consist of many layers plot-wise and that are character driven tend to lose me within the first few pages, just because there’s just so much to keep track of, and the fact that I get easily distracted doesn’t help. Monstress wasn't that, and I chalk that up to a wonderfully written story of revenge and survival. With Liu’s writing paired with the beautiful art done by Sana Takeda, it’s no wonder Monstress found itself on NPR’s list of 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels.
Just like Wytches, Monstress was referred to me by a local comic shop employee. She’s two for two so far. I really have to give credit to the way Liu crafted this epic story with apparent ease--something that all aspiring writers struggle with. I’ve seen writers swimming in post-it notes in order to keep their stories straight, I can only wonder how Liu was able to keep all of her thoughts in a workable order. It's not so much the dialogue or the character building in Monstress, but the world-building that is created by dropping the reader smack dab into the middle of the story mise en scene--not explaining anything, but letting the reader learn as the story progresses. This is always a tricky task, but when done well can be extremely rewarding as it is here.
Having read Monstress twice, it went a little smoother the second time as it read more like a movie script. It’s not only the dialogue that keeps you engrossed, but how visually stunning every page is. The art has a very Egyptian/Manga style which is quite striking. Despite the arts mystical quality, it also involved a few gory scenes that as a whole gave Monstress a very animalistic/natural vibe in that nature can be beautiful and violent all at the same time.
Monstress is story set in a matriarchal society where live witches, sorcerers, gods, and all things magical. Reading a story that was written and illustrated by women, about a matriarchal society is a rarity, but thankfully something that is becoming more available. Coming from a family with many strong women, it was satisfying to see that portrayed in comic form.
At the onset we see 17 year old Arcanic female, Maika Halfwolf being auctioned off to her human bidders. In the ensuing issues, Maika seeks to find the truth about what happened to her mother. There are undertones of racism, slavery, and trafficking enveloped within the plot that push Maika to an uncontrollable anger that she must sustain.
The New World of Monstress is made up of five races: humans, the Ancients who are human-like with animal heads, cats (Children of Ubasti) that are able to speak and have several tails. It is said that they are the oldest race in the New World. Arcanics which are a hybrid of the humans and the ancients. And lastly, the Old Gods, which are worshipped by the Arcanics but are otherwise a mystery. They are said to have immense power, but can be a destructive force.
Monstress vol. 1 consists of issues 1-6 and was published in July 2016. It does contain some strong language and graphic scenes of violence, so those who have children or are sensitive to things like that beware. Volume 2, which contains issues 7-12 was just released this month and is very much on my radar as it should be on yours.