“Monstress” is a beautiful and dark graphic novel series (2015-current) written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda. The gorgeous art depicts a complex and violent world where tensions never cease between the Ancients (anthropomorphic animal lords), Arcanics (human-animal hybrids), Cumea (human witches bent on murdering Arcanics), necromancer cats, and the old gods (tentacled monsters trapped inside the sky). It might take you a little while to get that sorted out; I’ve been reading each volume twice to make sure I’m catching everything, and also to revisit the art.
Even if you can’t remember who is who, you should still enjoy following the battered, stoic Arcanic, Maika Halfwolf, on her adventures, and fret over the safety of her sidekick Kippa, a “little fox” Arcanic with a heart of gold, whom everyone threatens to eat.
The one-armed Maika is a war survivor and former slave whose body becomes a vessel for one of the old gods, Zinn—specifically, his tentacles with eyes start growing out of her missing arm’s socket. The bloodline of her mysterious ancestor, the Shaman Empress, is responsible for Zinn’s awakening inside of her; with him, Maika possesses incredible strength, but also an insatiable desire to feed that threatens her would-be companions (including Kippa). The experiments and discoveries of the Shaman Empress are desired by all sides and Maika’s search for answers to her own mother’s death is caught up in political intrigue and impending war.
Kippa joins up with Maika after being rescued from the Cumea’s prison and then stubbornly follows her “Miss” despite the dangers surrounding her. Her gentle, childlike advice and warnings serve as the perfect counterbalance to Maika’s anger and violent tendencies. They’re also frequently joined by Ren, a duplicitous but likeable cat with two tails, as well as a revolving cast of untrustworthy characters, some of whom the narrative follows separately, revealing more of the complicated world.
“Monstress” is available in individual comics or collected volumes and I have currently read up to Vol. 4. Eagerly looking forward to what happens next!
Image via Image Comics website