July 24, 2016

Review: Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a fan of Marjorie Liu's work. Her urban fantasy series, Hunter Kiss, is one of the more inventive UF series out there, with a rich, unique mythology, and the books are refreshingly free of most urban fantasy cliches. So I approached this graphic novel already predisposed to like it--and it knocked my socks off.

This is set in a world with an intricate mythos and background, easily the equal of Liu's Hunter Kiss universe. This is gradually revealed through the 6 collected issues of this volume, and once you get to the end you'll want to take another pass through it, to see all the little bits of worldbuilding you didn't pick up on before. Liu trusts her reader to follow her, and is never condescending or long-winded about her world.

But there are also some pretty heavy themes here, about monsters within and without, and fear of the Other, and how a person copes when she realizes she carries a horror within her she cannot escape. There's a shivery Lovecraftian feel and and an Egyptian tone to the story. It's pretty dark overall: this is definitely not a children's comic. The art is a muted palette of grays, browns and blacks that grows on the reader, and is very appropriate for the story.

The characterizations are very well done, especially Kippa (Little Fox), Master Ren the talking two-tailed cat, and of course the seventeen-year-old protagonist, Maika Halfwolf. She carries a burden that would break most people or drive them insane, but at the end of the book she finds a sliver of hope. The whole thing is just outstanding, and I highly recommend it.

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