20 August 2018

Review: Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Small note: here's my review of Fire with Fire, the first Star Trek: Prometheus audiobook from Big Finish.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2016 (contents: 2015-16)

Previously read June 2017
Acquired June 2017

Reread October 2017
Monstress, Volume One: Awakening

Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda 
Lettering & Design: Rus Wooton

When I read volume one of Monstress through the Hugo voter's packet, I liked it enough to pick it up in hard copy as well as any follow-ups. A reread didn't actually clarify the fuzzy parts of the story for me: there is a lot to keep track of, a lot of people after Meika, the rogue Arcanic with a terrifying god hidden inside her somehow, all with their own agendas. But that's not what you read Monstress for (and by "you" I mean "me"). Its central character is kind of inscrutable and not really my type, but I love the issues she raises: the various ways the bodies of the culturally undesirable get used and transformed and exploited by the powerful. Meika is a slave (or others would make her a slave, anyway) in more than one way. Liu and Takeda create a complicated, historical, lived-in world, with multiple fantasy races, but minorities and conflicts within the races, too, and amazing visual designs for everything and everyone.

Ren Mormorian: not as badass as he hopes.
from Monstress #2

I almost said that Meika is exploited on the basis of gender above, but that's not actually true as far as I can tell. This is a feminist story, not in the sense that Women Are Awesome, but in the sense that it passes the Bechdel test-- and fails, I think, the reverse Bechdel. Almost every significant character, hero, ally, and villain, is female. Even the people exploiting female prisoners for sex are other women.

Ren Mormorian: more cuddly than he'd like.
from Monstress #4

Outside of the world, the art, and the feminism, what carries me through the book are Meika's two sidekicks: Commander Ren Mormorian, the feline nekomancer, and Kippa, the naïve vulpine Arcanic. Mormorian is awesome, a powerful, cynical guy... with all the disadvantages of being cat-sized in a world of humans. And Kippa is just adorable, an innocent foil to Meika's anger and guilt. I could fill this review with a dozen scans of Ren moments, but I'll restrict myself to just a few.

Ren Mormorian: as foul-mouthed as he needs to be.
from Monstress #1

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