Review: Reading the first volume of Monstress is much like being in a surreal nightmare that is initially very confusing yet mesmerizing. Things being to clear up the further you read along. In the aftermath of a brutal, 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. I'm still not quite sure what Lilium exactly is but it's pretty close to a bloodlike substance.
Our protagonist is Maika Halfwolf, an Arcanic teen who has survived the war but at a devastating cost. She is an orphan and has lost one of her arms. Looking for revenge for her mother's death and seeking answers about her past, Maika allows herself to be sold as a slave to infiltrate the Cumaean stronghold in Zamora. Maika is far from a damsel in distress. She is skillful, logical to the extent of being cold and distant yet she is also vulnerable and lost. Maika holds a terrible power that is threatening to consume her and change her into a monster. She is constantly fighting it within herself but she is also isn't afraid to unleash it as she does to escape and free the captured Arcanics, and brutally attack the witch-nuns in Zamora. Maika also steals a fragment of an ancient and powerful mask and murders a Cumaean elder who knows secrets from Maika's past. A running theme throughout the graphic novel is what makes a monster and can anyone escape from the darkness within themselves?
Now 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. Monstress blends the genres of horror, steampunk, and epic fantasy seamlessly. The world is complex, harsh, and grim. There are interludes to help fill in the blank for readers. The work is filled with strong and deadly female characters. The artwork is intricate, detailed, and beautiful. It is clear that there is a definite manga influence in the artwork. I'm definitely intrigued by the first volume of this graphic novel series and I look forward to reading more.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: This graphic novel is rated M for Mature due to strong, graphic violence, nudity, and strong language. I would recommend this graphic novel to older teens and adults only.
If you like this book try: Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen