I wasn’t impressed by the graphic novel, Monstress. The story is downright confusing until the end of each issue when the reader is given a history lesson (info dump) by a talking cat with multiple tails. Let me attempt a summary of just the beginning (it gets really complicated after that):

There’s a teen. There’s something special about her but we’re not sure what. She’s purchased by a religious cult with others of her kind. They’re shipped to a prison fortress and tortured- for what, who knows? Maika (the girl) knows that she has to get out of this horrible place, but her “power” is unreliable. There are a bunch of flashbacks to explain where Maika came from and it seems to be as awful as where she is now. Will she survive? Will she figure out what her power is and learn to control it? Will anybody tell me what the heck is going on? Who are these witch/nuns? And why does the fox girl have such big eyes?

I managed to get into the story towards the end, but I was completely turned off by the F-bombs peppered throughout the text. I mean, there’s a whole language to choose from, and that’s the best you can do? I’m not opposed to a few well-timed ones, but it turned into the go-to exclamation. Also, what’s up with the females who are drawn so un-lifelike that it looks like their balloon filled chests are going to float away at any moment? Now, to be fair, they weren’t ALL ridiculously drawn, but some were. I understand that this kind of depiction is a stylistic choice, but it’s not my cup of tea. In addition, there is some seriously disturbing and graphic violence in this. With the popularity of various Tarantino films, I know that this type of art has its audience. But, again, I am not in the audience.

The bad guys in this are really, really bad, like unbelievably so. I think graphic novels are more fun when there are grey areas. Torturing children doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for sympathy.

I wanted to like Monstress as it has a lot of things that I do enjoy: magic, steampunk, gods, fairy-type creatures. But, there was just so much more that I didn’t like, that it soured the experience for me. I understand that I’m in the minority here so if you’re a graphic novel aficionado you may want to give Monstress a read through anyway as many of my friends seemed to enjoy it.

Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Monstress by Marjorie Liu

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