by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
To quote the poets “..only she who trusts nothing can know real peace”
In Monstress, writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda have crafted an enthralling and complex lived in fantasy epic. A brilliant war allegory that deftly blends elements of popular mythology with its own unique sensibility, the comic is a dark and beautifully haunting exploration of war and classicism. With its boundless imagination, Monstress is consistent in it awe and wonder from one issue to the next. Last week’s issue fourteen continues in that vein with a lush and foreboding chapter in the series rich narrative.
Monstress #14 follows main character Maika as she arrives in the city of Pontus. In Monstress, the world is divided between humans and arcana, human/animal hybrids. Humans and Arcana have a terse and combative history, with the former having subjugated the latter as slaves and the two sides on the verge of war. Pontus acts as a safe harbor where humans and arcana live together, though they are already feeling the strain of the upcoming conflict. Maika’s late mother Moriko, a former arcana leader, has left a dangerous old god monster named Zinc inside her daughter, creating a dangerous and tense symbiotic relationship between the two. They’re joined by an adorable fox like refugee arcana girl, a cynical scholarly three tailed talking cat, and a consortium of shifty human and arcana colleagues with questionable motives and intentions. The mastery from writer Marjorie Liu comes in the balance she creates in the comics complex mythology, with an incredibly personal and intimate focus on her characters and the full weight of their journeys. Monstress is a fantasy epic in every sense of the word for its robustly detailed and inventive world building. But its voice and approach is unparalleled. Liu’s characters and their world are deeply cynical, but it’s well worn and earned from the comics depth. Monstress is a book that often explores humanities darkest impulses, but it does so with a clarity for its complexity. Her characters are fully realized in the best way, with the tension of their fears and cynicism wholly felt on each page. Liu weaves a fascinating story line for how they navigate their deadly and fantastic universe. It’s an engrossing comic on multiple levels,
Monstress artist Sana Takeda creates some of comics most beautifully lush and intricate comics interior work. Her line work is ultra clean, and with her striking color palette, she gives the title a stunning vitality. As a comic that is constantly evolving its primary setting, Takeda consistently amazes for her rich design. Monstress is a title that is inherently dark for its story and concepts, but Takeda infuses the book with a gorgeous and arresting naturalism. Both her micro level character acting and macro level world design are equally endearing from her range and detail.
In the above page, no portion is any less intricate from another. From the characters in the forefront of the page, to the elaborate machinery in the background, to the reflection of the floor and candles at its lower portion. Takeda’s style has a distinct realism that helps makes it’s fantasy concepts endlessly captivating.
Monstress #14 continues the series sustained excellence. It’s an enthralling and inspired installment to one of comics best ongoing series. Deeply harrowing and beautiful in equal measure, Monstress #14 delivers for a comics fantasy epic unlike anything else.