The first volume of Monstress collects issues #1-6. It’s a fantastic introduction to a world of magic, racial conflict, and monsters from within and without. It rose from the mind of Marjorie Liu and was beautifully rendered by Sana Takeda. Here’s my review.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening

Story: Marjorie Liu

Art: Sana Takeda

Letters: Rus Wooton

Publisher: Image

One of the best things about comics these days is the variety. We’re well past the superhero-centric era when the only comics that mattered were the ones about mutants, crime-fighting clubs, and Batman.

It’s easier now for someone like me, a Make-Mine-Marvel man, to stray from the spandex path and step into a forest full of wonders and horrors. I recently ventured out of my usual Marvel route and discovered the gruesome, epic, and monstrous world of Monstress.

Monstress is a fully formed fantasy world with old gods, witches, and talking cats. It doesn’t follow your usual epic fantasy tropes with shining knights and wise old wizards. The story doesn’t start with a damsel in distress. The gritty tale begins with a slave auction and it gets dirtier from there.

Marjorie Liu gives us a realm at war. Instead of giving us a familiar fantasy setting, she built a matriarchal world with racial conflict that almost mirrors our own, but not quite. Everybody is everybody else’s monster, some more literal than others. In six issues, Liu has established a world as rich and fascinating as the story’s individual characters.

Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a one-armed teenage magical creature with an ancient monster trapped inside her. She journeys through the realm to find the truth about her mother and the monster inside her.

Accompanied by Kippa the fox girl and Master Ren the two-tailed talking cat, Maika traverses the realm perilious while struggling with the monster within and fighting a variety of monsters without.

While most of the story is doom and gloom, blood and guts, and death and dismemberment, a sliver of levity pops up every now and then. Moments of dread and bright bursts of triumph are peppered in as well. There are so many layers of good stuff here, it makes my face happy.

Monstress - Maika, Kippa, and Ren

The beautiful manga-inspired art by Sana Takeda is enchanting. You can spend hours just poring over the details of Takeda’s art. The covers alone are worthy of extended periods of staring. I’ve never been a big fan of manga-style Western comics art, but Sana Takeda has changed my heart and mind.

While the first issue of Monstress alone is enough to keep new readers hungry for more, the entire first volume is guaranteed to convince basic superhero fans like me to stray off the brightly-colored path and get lost in monstrous enchanted forests more often.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening is available now wherever fine comic books are sold.

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