Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Release Date: 27th January, 2016
If H P Lovecraft wandered into The Great Gatsby during a particularly sexy party, the resulting social would resemble something along the decadent design of Monstress. Merging manga influences with pages drenched in art-deco design, the comic is a luxurious feast for the eyes; geometric lines of black and gold decorate the inset pages and beautifully frame the earthy, eerie tones throughout.
Sana Takeda’s fine lines create an ethereal, almost alien worldscape full of uniquely styled characters. Polytheistic, animal spirits of the dead imbue an aboriginal mythology that elevates the distinct and dense lore of Majorie Liu’s story. The comic is set during the aftermath of a great war between the Federation of Men and the Arcanics, a hybrid race of beings with supernatural powers coveted by the religious order of the Cumaea. This group of human witch-nuns harvest the bodies of the Arcanics in order to sustain their power. Though she appears outwardly human, Maika is a powerful Arcanic searching for answers as to her mother’s murder.
The series follows Maika’s perilous journey; in addition to infiltrating the Cumaea, Maika is battling a very familiar demon, as something dark dwells within her. In this instalment, Maika discovers the extent of her black magic when her body transforms in defence against an Inquisitrix, dispatched to hunt her by the Cumaea. This demonic hunger, a formidable force that Maika does not understand and is struggling to control, reveals Maika to be an interesting anti-heroine who is ultimately alone in her quest.
The comic has a lot to say on the subject of gender politics and much can be inferred from the primal, matriarchal title. In addition to the strong feminist tones, slavery and racial subjugation are also pronounced themes that resonate with the reader in relation to real, current events. The brutal and gripping storyline really does pack a punch in its rather ruthless and detached view of the characters; much in the vein of George R R Martin’s writing style, even children are not safe from the cannibalistic cravings of those in or seeking power.
Overall the beautifully illustrated book conjures a comprehensive and complex world and mythology that demands the full attention of the reader. Despite the density of the story, it is very apparent that we have only touched the surface of what is shaping to become an epic fantasy.
The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth