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Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening (Paperback)
Writer Liu and illustrator Takeda have created a rich, dense world in Monstress: Maika Halfwolf, our heroine, is on a quest to avenge her mother’s death. When we meet her she’s been picked out of a slave camp by Cumaean “witch nuns” to be one of several lab rats. She and the other children selected are Arcanics, powerful human/Ancient hybrids, and are used to harvest and study “lilium,” a mysterious substance Arcanic bodies produce. Ancients are deities who tend to appear as oversized animals. What the Cumaeans don’t know is that Maika’s body is host to an immensely powerful being that emerges, tentacled and monstrous, whenever she is threatened.
Over the course of three volumes (collecting the first 18 issues) we see Maika and her, in the absence of more information, demonic parasite tear through enemies as they hunt for information about Maika’s mother Moriko, a researcher who died trying to learn about the Shaman Empress, the first Arcanic, with whom we learn Maika has some connection.
Liu’s predominantly female and gender diverse cast is composed of characters laboring under their own burdens, not unexpected in a world reeling from a war between humans and magical beings. For a people displaced by war and living in a society rife with racial prejudice and sudden violence, morality is composed almost entirely of grey areas. Heroine though she may be, Maika is ruthless and unkind, though not cruel without reason. At the start of her quest, we might think she’s determined to find her mother’s killer out of love but as events unfold and we catch glimpses of Maika’s childhood, we learn their relationship is much darker, and it’s not love that motivates Maika.
Takeda’s gorgeously intricate illustrations show a world powered by a mix of magic and steampunk technology. Though her color palette is restricted to earthy greens and browns, her line work is extraordinarily detailed and rewarding to examine. The abundance of minutely decorated clothing, skies massed with constellations, crammed interiors, and profuse foliage gives Takeda occasion to demonstrate her artistry to wonderful effect.
Monstress was an unexpected favorite for me—I picked it up on a whim one day, sucked in by Maika’s thousand-yard stare in a child’s face—and now the wait between issues feels longer every time.
—Sarah, Longfellow Books— From Sarah Recommends!
2018 Eisner Award winner, Best Writer
2018 Eisner Award winner, Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
2018 Eisner Award winner, Best Continuing Series
2018 Eisner Award winner, Best Publication for Teens
2018 Eisner Award winner, Best Cover Artist
2018 Harvey Award winner, Book of the Year
2018 Hugo Award winner, Best Graphic Story
2018 British Fantasy Award winner, Best Comic/Graphic Novel
2018, 2016, 2015 Entertainment Weekly's The Best Comic Books of the Year
2018, Newsweek's Best Comic Books of the Year
2018, The Washington Post's 10 Best Graphic Novels of the Year
2018, Barnes & Noble's Best Books of the Year
2018, YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens
2018, Thrillist's Best Comics & Graphic Novels of the Year
2018, Powell's Best Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Graphic Novels of the Year Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers. About the Creators: New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer Marjorie Liu is best known for her fiction and comic books. She teaches comic book writing at MIT, and leads a class on Popular Fiction at the Voices of Our Nation (VONA) workshop. Ms. Liu's extensive work includes the bestselling "Astonishing X-Men" for Marvel Comics, which featured the gay wedding of X-Man Northstar and was subsequently nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding media images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Prior to writing full-time, Liu was a lawyer. She currently resides in Boston. Sana Takeda is an illustrator and comic book artist who was born in Niigata, and now resides in Tokyo, Japan. At age 20 she started out as a 3D CGI designer for SEGA, a Japanese video game company, and became a freelance artist when she was 25. She is still an artist, and has worked on titles such as "X-23" and "Ms. Marvel" for Marvel Comics, and is an illustrator for trading card games in Japan.