'Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening' by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda [Comic Review]

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I know that “judging a book by its cover” is a big no-no in contemporary society but, like, look at that cover!

A lot of the time the cover art is more elaborate–and done by a separate artist–for comics but, no, Sana Takeda‘s artwork is actually that beautiful throughout the book.

Furthermore, anything with a recommendation from Neil Gaiman is enough to make me want to read something. Add to that a recommendation from a writer I know and I had to see what this was about.

There’s such a wonderful atmosphere and texture to this book. I say “texture” because I really don’t know what else seems fitting. The world feels a certain way not only through the artwork but through the writing as well. It’s this mesmerizing fantasy world with layers upon layers of history and culture. It manages to be both tactile and too fantastical to grasp–like a vivid dream (or nightmare).

Highlights

One of the first things I noticed while reading this comic was that some of the panels had slanted borders. This appears to usually be used to show movement as the action and the angle of the panel’s edge seem to match each other. This is especially true with magical characters and it could symbolise their speed. However, I like the idea that it’s more like a warping of reality. The first time Maika’s monstress powers are shown to the reader, all of the panels have these angled borders creating this atmosphere that something is fundamentally “other” in the scene. 

I also noticed the change in the gutters: sometimes they are white and sometimes they are black. Originally, I thought that black was for flashbacks as a visual marker to help separate the two timelines — white being for the present tense. There is, however, one panel that is a flashback but does not have the black gutters: the first page of the first flashback. This might be because it’s the first and therefore must establish that this is going to be these two timelines. 

Low Points

If there was one thing that I didn’t enjoy about this comic it would have to be that I wasn’t entirely sure what to pay attention to all the time. There’s so much detail in the panels and the story that I got lost a couple times–especially since there is such a rich history to the world. I don’t know all the lore yet and I wasn’t entirely able to follow all the conversations related to it.

This is not a series for people who aren’t interested in a steep learning curve. If fantasy/sci-fi isn’t your thing than this series will probably intimidate you. However, if, like me, you enjoy being thrown into an epic fantasy landscape with nothing but a confusing map and a vague understanding of mythology than search no further for this is the comic for you!

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is one of those graphic novels that stuck with me for about 24 hours after I read it in that my subconscious was working away at what I had just read in an attempt to figure out what it meant.

I don’t want to give you the idea that this comic is particularly philosophical but there are some topics and themes in it that stuck in my head. This could also have something to do with me needing to wait before I could read more of the story because life gets in the way–and I really need to know what happens.

Should I continue with this series and write my thoughts about it? Anything else you think I should be reading, comic or otherwise? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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