BOOK TITLE: Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening
AUTHOR: Marjorie Liu
GENRE: Graphic Novel
SUBGENRE: Dark Fantasy
In a world consumed by a bigoted war between humans and Arcanics, monsters are treated as second class citizens and are often beaten and enslaved so that witch cults can harvest their powers. Maika Halfwolf is one of those monsters. She gets herself intentionally captured so that she can begin her quest for knowledge as to who her parents are, why she is the way she is, and how she can tame the demon inside of her that devours everything it touches. With a talking cat and a fox girl by her side, she is in constant fear of the demon coming out and killing both of them. And yet, they remain loyal throughout all of the attacks and captures from various witch cults.
If for some reason that opening synopsis sounds a little off, don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling befuddled. I too was confused by the happenings of this graphic novel. I kept trying to piece together which magician belonged to which alliance. I kept wondering about the terminology. I kept wondering why magicians were attacking members of their own cliques (at least I think they’re part of their own clique, I’m still not sure). For some reason I kept spacing out during the cat lectures in between chapters. The fact that I was able to put together at least SOME of the pieces was nothing short of a miracle. It made me question whether or not I had to read other source material in order to understand this fictional world, but this is the first volume of the Monstress series, so I guess not. Maybe if someone explains it to me in depth, then I can get a better grasp of what’s going on here.
On the bright side, the cats were cuter than a bug’s ear. Yes, they’re intended to be taken seriously by the characters in the story, but that won’t stop me from rubbing their bellies and feeding them Temptations. During one of the cat lectures, there’s a little kitty rolling around on his back playing with a slave collar’s chain. Torturous device aside, that’s still a cute image. I also liked the image of the cat teacher making chocolate-covered mice with the rest of her class. As a lover of animals, it was refreshing to see that these cats weren’t being abused in some way, dark fantasy canon aside. There could have easily been a time where a soldier kicked a cat or flung it against a tree, but that didn’t happen. Thank god good taste prevailed!
Of course, dark fantasy cannot work without delicious violence and this graphic novel has that in spades. Whether it’s Maika’s demon gnawing on living flesh or a cat with two swords slicing and dicing his way to victory, feel free to drink it all in. I especially like the part where Maika slams a prison cell door against a corpulent, torture-loving guard. The guard deserved it almost as much as Captain Byron Hadley from The Shawshank Redemption deserved to be dragged out in cuffs. Maybe those two should get married and go on a honeymoon to
. Lots of blood, lots
of broken bones, lots of madness, lots of everything! It’s not really fair to
call this gornography, whether you’re confused by the storyline or not, but you
can get your fill of violence and dirty language easily from a text like this. Guantanamo
If it wasn’t for the muddling storyline and the many pieces that don’t seem to fit, I would have given this graphic novel a passing grade. There have been times I’ve considered doing that anyways because the demonic presence inside Maika Halfwolf reminds me of my own schizophrenia. I love a good story that I can relate to in some way, which sounds like a weird thing to say about a blood-stained dark fantasy book, but that’s the thing about fantasy: it’s just as reflective of our society as modern day drama. But alas, I had an easier time understanding The Matrix than I did this graphic novel. A mixed grade is what Monstress has earned.