Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.
I’ve never reviewed a graphic novel! I feel like this review should have two parts though….like….
So the storyline in Monstress was exactly what you expect from the first of any story. There were info dumps, character introductions, and a general build of the world (with maps!). Normally info dumps annoy me in books. There is already so much you want to keep track of and now here comes all this information about the world and what happened and who did it and how and what the cosmic alignment was two thousand years ago and blah blah. I appreciate setting the scene; I do! But there is a fine line between setting that scene and weighing the reader down and I feel like Monstress toed that line A LOT.
Info aside I had a very weird reaction to the characters. Maika, our MC, due to her past and current monster situation is kind of a bitch. Now of course this isn’t anything new for a fantasy character on some sort of quest, but with Maika I felt…..compassion? Is that what this emotion is?! Where normally I’d be annoyed by the staple “push everyone away because it’s what’s best” role; when it came to Maika I only felt a weird sense of understanding. Not that I accepted her attitude but that I understood why and I wouldn’t hold that against her.
Funny story, I went to a performing arts school from 3 to 10th grade. As such, I have a weird and almost obsessive love of art in all mediums. The graphics in Monstress are nothing short of stunning. The story being told is actually pretty dark (war, slavery, more war, demons) and I think the art matches that perfectly. And I don’t mean just the character art, the color tones alone embody the dark and magical world we’re exploring. And the fight scenes! I understand the point of illustrations is to give you a visual representative of what is going on, but these go so much further than that. To be able to see honest emotion on every characters face. To have such a raw visual put before you while you read this journey is incredible!
Overall I loved Monstress. Overall I love the characters, the story and definitely the art. There were things that did not get my undying affection, and other things that annoyed me, but overall it was a solid graphic novel.