Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu

“To quote the poets… we’re fucked.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 208 pages.
Read from July 8, 2020 to July 9, 2020.

After some high praise and recommendations from many avid readers, I waited patiently for this stunning graphic novel to become available at my library. It took about a year but my library finally added this series.

In the steampunk setting of the glamorous city of  Zamora, Maika, a young teen is looking for answers and revenge. The Cumaea fear the magical Arcanics and the war has taken inhumane turns against the Arcanics as a result of this fear. Maika is Arcanic but looks human, not that it stopped her from being persecuted, enslaved and worse during the peak of the war. Maika is a hardened survivor of war, trauma, and abuse, who also happens to share a mysterious link to an ancient demon making her immensely powerful, feared, and wanted. Maika struggles to control this entity within her as she also struggles to cope with the trauma that this war has left her and the relationships she may have sabotaged.  As you learn more about what has shaped Maika, you come to see how deep her trauma is and how hardened to emotion is she has become.

Monstress is one of the most imaginative stories I’ve ever read, especially when accompanied with the stunning artwork that is both gorgeous and at times shockingly gruesome. Trauma, which is a central part of Monstress, was inspired by the author’s grandmother, who escaped Japanese occupation during WWII. This additional personal detail really adds a further layer of depth to this already emotional plot. The artwork is perfectly paired with this story as the images are emotional, raw, dark and brutal, just like war. The story also emboldens women and feminine strength with both the protagonist and antagonists of the stories, the society that Maika lives in is also matriarchal.

My one complaint with this story is there is a lot of detail to take in for a graphic novel. It was difficult to get the full scope of the world that Maika and her companions live in as it’s of a lot of details to take in at one time. I often found myself back tracking to go over a detail I missed or didn’t retain. In some ways I wish that this graphic novel had been written as novel with accompanying images. Yes, it would have made the book a lot longer but I think it would have helped to make it easier to digest the world and history Zamora. It was clever to have the Professor delve out these history lessons as interludes between chapters but they were long and winded at times which is what made me think a proper novel might have lent itself better to the story, with the images as well, of course. The artwork is just as central to this story as the plot itself.

I’m thrilled to have such a unique series to read and can’t wait to see what is next for Maika and how the rest of the story will unfold. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves graphic novels, fantasy, war stories, or just an appreciation for moving, beautiful and brutal artwork.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen

This modern take on a classic romantic theme details another side to the author’s artistry and creative storytelling skills which step outside her previous style of comics.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 77 pages.
Read July 10, 2020.

If you spend any time on the internet then you’re likely already familiar with the author of this graphic novel. Sarah Andersen is the author of the infamous Sarah’s Scribbles, which are short relatable and funny comic strips involving a cartooned version of the author. Complete with the author’s trademark humour, Fangs is very different from the Scribble’s series both in its medium and content. The author takes a familiar concept but with a unique and intimate approach.

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Fangs is a love story between a vampire and a werewolf. The story starts with their first date and then follows their lives as their romance progresses. It’s a wonderfully simple concept and story with beautiful results. Each page is a scene in an of its self and presents a moment in time in this unique relationship. Some scenes are dark and reveal glimpses of the monsters that each of them can be but most scenes are cute, quirky, funny, romantic, and just downright delightful.

bd85b41054436cb8f17d8df0b154baabThis modern take on a classic romantic theme details another side to the author’s artistry and creative storytelling skills which step outside her previous style of comics. The story is immensely captivating and can speak to a wide range of readers with its content. You don’t need to like the supernatural genre to appreciate the story and the characters that the author succinctly builds in this short but engaging graphic novel. The story touches on the nuisances of love and building a long and committed relationship with both its ups and downs, as well as the added intrigue of the supernatural realm and drawing on our natural curiosity of this sort of romance. The novel’s presentation and engagement also makes you want to revisit the story again and again. I think my only wish with this story was that it was longer and that I wanted the story to continue further than it did.

If you want to read this book ASAP, as I did, you’re in luck. You can read it online completely for free off Tapas. By visiting this site you’re also supporting the author so it’s a win-win. If you loved the series as much as I did, you can also support the author by purchasing a hard copy of the book.