In volume 3 of Monstress, the story of Maika Halfwolf and her companions Kippa and Ren revolves around their stay in the city of Pontus. While there, we learn more about the various forces in the Known World and their plans, most of which involve Maika in one way or another. We learn much more about Zinn, the Old God who is bonded to Maika, and we start to understand the Monstrum a little bit more. This volume gives a little more time to Kippa and Ren, letting us understand their place in the world and how they are trying to change it. While the core story of this volume’s arc moves at a fast pace, it is heartening to see so many things getting set up for the future with the Humans, Arcanics, Old Ones and even the Cats preparing for their next moves. Like the previous volumes, Monstress Volume 3 is an ugly story in a pretty skin. The action is dark and violent, driven by a sense of survival or attempts to achieve personal goals of vengeance or greed. The ending definitely has me wanting to read on and see what happens next.
One of the first things that you think about Monstress is the art: It’s one of the most gorgeous looking books on the market. Of course, what else would you expect from someone who won two art awards at the 2018 Eisners? Sana Takeda’s style is magnificent — simplistic at times, but every page shows of just how detailed her work can be. While the line work is great, I adore the coloring in Monstress. It almost looks like a watercolor at times, with great use of textures, lighting and shading that all help to generate to the feel and tone of the book. The way that the book can go from bright and wondrous to dark and foreboding is brilliant.
The world of Monstress and Takeda’s style are a perfect fit. The way that she portrays the emotions and thoughts of the cats and captures the horrific and dreamlike nature of the Old Gods are what really help to shape a world where animals, mankind and monsters fight to further their own agendas and machinations. In a book full of wonderful surroundings and gorgeous designs, the story is driven by the ugliness that lives inside, shaped by society, circumstance and desire.
Marjorie Liu has created an incredible world for Monstress. The mix of technology and magic, human and beast, is incredibly fascinating. Like many of the best fantasy stories, at its heart it’s about very human concepts of hatred and desire. So much of the book’s feel comes from the fact that it isn’t afraid to be different. From the design aesthetics to the strong female-dominated societies, it stands out from everything else while also telling a compelling, interesting story. One of my favorite touches is how Liu uses the Professor Tam Tam segments at the end of each chapter to help build our understanding of the Known World so the book doesn’t have to explain the history and politics unless it suits the characters and their motivations to do so.
Monstress Vol. 3 adds more dimensions to the many plots that are being made in the Known World. The unsteady trust between Maika and Zinn continues to build as we understand more about the history of the world. This is all told with more of Takeda’s brilliant artwork. If you want a gorgeous but unsettling fantasy story, Monstress is the book for you.