MONSTRESS 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu
As much as I enjoyed the first volume of Marjorie Liu‘s MONSTRESS , its second instalment (comprised of issues seven to twelve) is a vast improvement. The first volume was stuffed full of exposition and world-building and backstory, so much so that it was difficult to discern the actual plot. Granted, that made it exciting and complex, but I also had to read through it three times just to glean what was going on.
By contrast, Volume Two: The Blood has a much clearer arc, which allows the reader to better appreciate the characterization and story beats.
One-armed Maika Halfwolf is on the run from a number of powerful organizations looking to exploit the ancient monster that lives beneath her skin. Every now and then it manifests from her missing limb in the form of hideous eyed tentacles, forcing her to struggle with its bloodlust and own diabolical agenda. But Maika has her own mission: to follow in her mother’s footsteps and uncover the archaeological secrets she left behind – which perhaps will explain why she’s a host to such a demonic creature.
Her journey takes her to the pirate-filled city of Thyria and the mysterious Isle of Bones, from which few people have returned. But with a strange bone-key that belonged to her mother, and the sense that the answers she seeks are somewhere beyond the mists that shroud the island, Maika takes her changes…
Marjorie Liu has crafted a fascinating tale, filled with an abundance of female characters and extraordinary creatures, but it’s Sana Takeda’s artwork that brings it all to life. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before; a fusion of steampunk, Art Deco, and Chinese/Egyptian style, all depicted in glorious colour and detail. It’s a feast for the eyes, and you’ll want to read slowly just to savour it all.
As ever, every page is filled with intriguing female characters, both good and evil (but mostly ambiguous) and of different ages, races and sexualities. It’s a testimony to how unused I am to having so many women in one story (and looking a certain way) that when the terrifying-looking humanoid shark emerges from the ocean, I immediately amused it was male. She wasn’t, and it was awesome.
Volume Two: The Blood is less gory than its predecessor (though there’s still plenty of blood and violence) and expands the world not only geographically but historically as well. Maika’s story gives us answers on her mother, on the reason a monster resides within her, and what her true purpose is – and ends on a great final note that promises more stories to come. I’ll be first in line to read them.