Where do I even begin with this book? Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have delivered a spectacular first issue. It's a massive 66-page introduction to a strange land that is both beautiful and horrific at the same time.
Despite the gorgeous artwork, this isn't a lovely story. In a land ravaged by war and oppression, we see there are two races trying to survive with one clearly having the upper hand. We see some upper class humans in the process of buying Arcanics, whom they consider monsters. Our main character, Maika is an Arcanic that resembles a human, not having any distinguishing markings immediately visible.
As the story unfolds, we find out more about her mission in between scenes from the present and flashbacks to a month before. After her purchase, we start to get taken deep within the horrors of this world. It's hard to describe the sinking feeling you get from the situations that are depicted with such wonderful art and colors. You may feel a little disturbed at times but it's presented out of necessity to show us what this world is like.
The issue has a very meaty feel to it. Being triple-sized, there's a lot going on. At the same time, there may be some minor confusion as we are thrown in the midst of the story. Jumping back and forth between the present and the flashbacks can sometimes be a little jarring. The beauty of the length of this issue allows you to explore and witness more of the world and story. I do feel this is an issue I will reread again after seeing future issues just to be sure I didn't miss anything here.
An interesting aspect, which I haven't fully made up my mind on how I feel, is the vibe of the characters. There is a bit of elegance to the characters and dialogue, making it feel set in a specific time period and then we get the occasional F-bomb that almost gives it a more modern feel.
MONSTRESS is a heavy book. Don't let the gorgeous imagery on the cover fool you. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are not messing around with the heavy themes and situations presented. You'll be captivated by the story that transpires but you'll also feel like you're prying into the personal struggles of the main character. If you're looking for a heavy story with gorgeous artwork along with a big struggle and plenty of action, you'll want to check this out. At $4.99 for sixty-six pages, it's quite a bargain. The story is the kind that will sit with you on your mind and heart well after you finish reading. It's a bleak beginning in a far-from-happy world but you won't be able to turn away.