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Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Paperback – July 19, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—In the aftermath of a terrible war, tension still exists between the humans and the animal-hybrids, Arcanics. Surviving Arcanics are sold as slaves by the Federation of Man and even experimented on by the Cumaea, powerful human witch-nuns who mine the precious life-giving Lilium produced from the bodies of captured Arcanics. Maika Halfwolf, a 17-year-old Arcanic, survived the war but at a devastating cost. Looking for revenge, she allows herself to be sold as a slave to infiltrate the Cumaean stronghold in Zamora. Once there, she uses her newly developed, terrible power to escape, free the captured Arcanics, and brutally attack the witch-nuns. She also steals a fragment of an ancient and powerful mask and murders a Cumaean elder who knows secrets from Maika's past. On the run from the Cumaea, the humans, and her own people, Maika must rely on herself and very few allies if she is to discover the secret of why her mother was murdered and, more important, who she is and what awful power she possesses. Collecting the first five issues of the popular comic, this is a beautifully written and complex book. Intricate and detailed, with a definite manga influence, Takeda's artwork creates a lush and dangerous world for Liu's equally dangerous characters. The work is infused with feminist themes; almost all of the characters are strong—and deadly—women. VERDICT Intended for mature audiences owing to the violence and nudity and filled with rage and barely contained fury, this is a book that will be wildly embraced by all fans of graphic literature.—Erik Knapp,Davis Library, Plano, TX
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Top Customer Reviews
It helps to know that the world of Monstress is inhabited by five known races:
(1) Humans, who cannot perform magic, though some women are born with mental powers that seem like magic. Among humans there is a religious order called the Cumaea who seek out such children and compel them to join their order. Refusal is not an option.
(2) The Ancients, immortal beings who resemble humans but have the heads and tails of animals and who can perform powerful magics. The Ancients are divided into two rival courts: the Dusk Court and the Dawn Court. Think a number of Egyptians gods and you get the picture.
(3) The Cats, magical beings distinguished from ordinary cats by their ability to speak, to perform magic and by their multiple tails. More tails reflect more power, status and age.
(4) The Old Gods, an ancient race of evil, powerful and destructive beings, not remotely human in appearance, supposedly gone from the world but fear of them still lingers.
(5) The Arcanic Halfbreeds, a hybrid race originally resulting from matings of Ancients and humans, inheriting varying traits and powers from both. Some can pass for human, their animal-like traits either not visible or suppressed, but most are marked by one or more animal traits: eyes, ears, tails, even wings.
The central character of Monstress is a seventeen-year-old girl named Maika Halfwolf, an Arcanic who can fully pass for human, in spite of the fact that her left fore-arm is missing. And the strange eye-like tattoo on her chest. The book begins with her being put up for bids at a slave auction. This is her story.
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a deeply complex dark fantasy graphic novel where the artwork is luxuriant and the story is a slow delicate build of gradual revelations.
The story so far is more world-building and personal background revealing than a grand epic, but I can feel it rapidly moving in that direction. The characters are complex, I can't deny that. The antagonists get as much attention as the protagonist and crew, and I really appreciate it. You also can't blame the book for token female characters, because they kick ass, and they do not share the worst common aspect of action books and movies, which would be a manly character in a female body.
All in all, the story does not feel like a fantasy cliché even with all the familiar motiffs in it, and none of it feels forced*, and I haven't noticed any glaring plotholes either. So far I favor this comic even over the famous traditional superhero ones.
*An interesting article revealed that the writer intentionally makes a point of having a majority female cast, because most media only includes a few, sometimes poorly written, female token characters. This time around, girls take the lead. Contrary to the impression this article gave me, it entirely feels natural to have a female protagonist (there was a solid 50% chance of that), and a female covenant as antagonists (there was way more than 50% chance of that in a matriarchal society), and the male characters are not exactly bumbling idiots either; they really pull their own weight.