Monstress Volume 1: Awakening

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover. The central character almost merging into an intricately detailed background left me really wanting to know what this graphic novel was all about.

Having read it, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. I enjoyed it, certainly, but there is so much density to the story that it takes a while to fully appreciate the full impact of the narrative.

Set in the aftermath of a war between Humans and half-human Arcanics, the story centres on Maika Halfwolf, a teenager seeking the truth about her past, her mother and a weapon so devastating that it brought the war to a sudden halt. Not only is Maika an Arcnic, but she is also possessed by a powerful entity which she cannot fully control.

I am skimming over the surface of a very convoluted plot here and I don’t want to give anything more away as it’s the slow revelation of details that ensures the story remains so engrossing.

There is so much going on in this book that I often found myself flipping back a few pages just to keep up with it all. Writer, Marjorie Liu has developed a richly detailed steampunk tinged fantasy world, and populated it with characters that are as diverse as they are captivating.

And then artist, Sana Takeda brings all of this to life with a style that remains as intricate and detailed as the cover. I can’t claim to be any sort of expert, but it does feel as if she has drawn together a diversity of comic book styles (Japanese, European and probably more) and synthesised them into something that is both familiar and unexpected.

The world of Monstress is dark, violent and richly detailed almost to the point of being overwhelming.

Maybe I should just read it again.