Graphic Novel Review: Monstress

Graphic Novel Review: Monstress

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.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.


Series: Monstress #1
Author: Marjorie Liu
Publication Date: July 19, 2017
Publisher: Image Comics
Page Count: 235
Format: Paperback
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Horror
Cover Artist: Sana Takeda
My Rating: ★★★

Monstress, Vol. 1: AwakeningMonstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Content Warning: Human trafficking, Child brutality, Slavery, Gore, Death,

Here goes–my first review of a graphic novel! To be completely honest, I picked this up because of the gorgeous artwork. It is some of the prettiest artwork I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel. It was also recommended to my by a fellow reader, who loved Nevernight. (I think this is the graphic novel equivalent to Nevernight if there ever was one. There probably is one, I just don’t know about it, yet.)

Monstress is set in an alternate universe in Asia, and is about a girl trying to remember her past, and survive her future. Not remembering where she came from, she discovers that she has a strange connection to a terrifying monster. As she works to uncover details about her past, she uncovers that the being within is also sought after by many. Quickly, they together, become the focus of a man-hunt that is pressing down from all angles.

The world is filled diversity. Five different races are represented, and the world is run my a matriarchy.

There are:

-Ancients – Immortal beings resembling animals that are very powerful. They are blessed by the Lunar goddess with magical abilities along with their immortality. However, their origins are a mystery.
-Humans – The majority of humans are as we are. A few human females are born with the abilities of telepathy, telekinesis, and foretelling.
-Arcanics “Half-breeds” – A race developed from the crossing of lines between the Ancients and Humans
-Cats “Children of Ubasti” – Intelligent creatures that are able to speak. They are the oldest species
-Old Gods – Incredibly powerful beings with terrible power, but very little is known about them. What is seen of them now are their shadows as they were banished a long time ago.

Three different factions also exist.

-Cumaea are “witches” that hunt Arcanics to destroy them and use them to make Lillium. This substance is used for a variety of things.
-The Federation is made up by humans who hate magic and its users.
-Arcanics are hybrids of Ancients and Humans. They have the ability to wield magic, and fight against the Cumaea.

The gorgeous artwork is inspired by the 1920’s Art Deco, enhanced with steampunk detailing.
(An example of Art Deco.)

The artist has an amazing sense of light and dark, but uses a misty overlay at times to make each art piece look ominous. The resulting images are so effective in coinciding with the tone of the plot. The atmosphere depicted within this story is incredibly powerful. The decadence vs. depravity between varying scenes are striking, yet still depicted with beauty.

This volume is clearly a part of a series, as there is a lot left to be explained in the upcoming novels. It took me up until the last few pages to get a decent idea of what is actually going on—which for me, is a bit too late. If you are a fan of strong female leads, beautiful artwork, and gritty material, this may be for you. I’m not one-hundred percent certain if I will continue on with this series, as the gory content was a bit off-putting. Even if I don’t, I will forever appreciate this artwork.

Vulgarity: Moderate.
Sexual content: Nudity and some graphic content.
Violence: A lot and gory.

My Rating: ★★★★

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I am the author behind Foals, Fiction & Filigree. An all-encompassing blog about horses, books, and my art.

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