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Monstress Vol. One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

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Other creators involved in the making of this comic include: Art by Sana Takeda, Lettering & Design by Rus Wooton, Editing by Jennifer M. Smith, and Editing Assistance by Ceri Riley.

Content/Trigger Warning: Violence, trauma, human trafficking, slavery, child brutality, death, inhumane experimentation, possible drug abuse, lots of gore and violent themes, very graphic content, cult themes, war themes. *This is a very, very dark story, and it doesn’t shy away from that darkness, the violence, or the brutality.*

“To quote the poets …. we’re fucked.”

With Monstress, we step into the 1900’s matriarchal Asia following a seventeen year old girl named Maika. Our story starts off with our main character sharing her inner thoughts while being sold into slavery. As the reader, in these first few moments, you will notice her missing arm and largely, red tattoo of an eye on her chest. Even though our heroine has found herself in a sticky situation, she’s a lot stronger and fiercer than she appears to be.

Maika is not only struggling with the trauma of the war, but she’s trying to find the answers to her past all while she battles her inner demons and an ancient monster who seems to be living within her. Thankfully she doesn’t have to go this journey alone! An adorable little half-fox (possibly kitsune origin!) and a poetic two-tailed cat at her side, Maika will embark on a journey to survive, discover her true self, learn about her past, and keep the pieces of a mysterious and highly sought after mask out of the clutches of evil.

In this world there are five races:
🌻 Humans â€“ Like you and me.
🌻 Ancients â€“ Immortal, animal-like rulers with an immense amount of power.
🌻 Cats â€“ Much like people, can speak and fight, but much more adorable.
🌻 Old Gods â€“ Little to no knowledge of them.
🌻Arcanics â€“ Half-breeds.

“Yes. Miss Halfwolf scares me a lot. But that doesn’t make her a monster. Don’t be like the Witches, Master Ren. They call us monsters because it makes it easier to hurt us. But monsters are people too.”

Also in this world, there are factions at war:
🌻 The Federation â€“ Humans, who just hate magic users and refuse to let them live and breed. These humans will take Arcanics and make them slaves to do whatever terrible things they wish.
🌻Arcanics – Magic users, who are sort of hybrids of the Ancients. Also, two powerful courts, the Dawn Court and the Dusk Court, have risen up to defend against the Cumaea.
🌻 Cumaea â€“ Witch-like people that use Arcanic’s body parts to make Lillium.

Not going to lie, this comic was a little hard for me to stomach. I made it 1/3 of the way through this graphic novel before I had to put it down. I would say that the first half of this book definitely requires being in the right mind set and I definitely recommend setting the comic down if you start to feel nauseous. Highly recommend peppermint tea while reading the first half. However, the way things really pick up after that first half will have you on the edge of your seat.

In this world, people in this will use a drug like substance called Lillium for power, regeneration, and in some cases, resurrection. Between the war and the use of this magical substance, this world is also now aware of things much bigger than the Federation and Arcanics (and they all have a right to be concerned and afraid).

I’ll admit, this first volume…it’s thick! Most bind-ups have a couple of comics all grouped together, but this feels almost as thick as one of my deluxe edition comics (not that I’m complaining!). This comic also has a significantly larger writing content than most graphic novel too! In this first volume, you get lots of information,l lots of details, some history tid-bits, and you obtain all of this is a very fast paced fashion. While this works for a lot of readers, there were some areas where I really wish I didn’t get the as much details (can you guess what some of those areas are?!), but other than those parts, it worked to pull me through to the end of the comic. I can understand why others might feel more immersed or completely turned off by all that detail and information, so I really wanted to give my experience with this comic.

Even though there were parts of this graphic novel that turned me off, I can’t help but constantly thinking back to the world and the information I have yet to receive. The world building is incredible and a lot of the art really captures a lot of the information , and detail we gain in this comic. The story and the art will just leave such an impact with the reader. This comic twisted my gut, but I can’t stop thinking about what’s going to come in the next volume. This is that kind of story that will just stick to you like glue!

“There’s more hunger in the world than love.”

While I didn’t love everything about this graphic novel, it truly is a great story filled with enticing characters, stunning artwork, and great representation. For me, I still have another comic series that still ranks as my number one, but this comic is definitely in my top five and for sure, in my top ten.

If you can stomach hard hitting topics and imagery, please look into this comic series and consider giving it a try. There’s so many incredible elements in this graphic novel that deserve to be appreciated. Everything is beautifully woven together to deliver a master piece to it’s readers. Once again, be aware of the content and trigger warnings, and give this graphic novel a try.

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