I think a few Cannonballers reviewed the Monstress series last year, and when I saw volume one at the local comic book store, the art was so beautiful I decided to make the purchase. The art is truly stunning, a combination of anime and Art Deco (the blurb on the back says Art Deco, but I think it looks a bit Nouveau; maybe elements of both). The story itself is complicated and involves a variety of races of creatures that have a complex history together. At the center of the story is a teenaged female named Maika Halfwolf, who is an “arcanic,” i.e., the halfbreed offspring of humans and ancients. The world these races inhabit is in flux due to wars and genocide directed against arcanics. Maika is on the run; she is on a quest of some sort but is also the object of others’ sinister interests.
The action begins with Maika and other arcanics, mere children, being sold to a sadistic scientist (human, I think) for some kind of sick experimentation. Maika has been orphaned due to war, and the trauma of it all seems to have interfered with her ability to remember exactly what happened to her and to her mother. We learn though that she has some sort of powers, dangerous and perhaps uncontrollable. Is she a monster? As the story progresses, we learn little bits about Maika’s mother, her work and her colleagues, and some mask that seems to be of interest to many different parties. The mask has a link to “the old gods,” who seem pretty scary. Also, cats can talk and are the descendants of a god named Ubasti.
The story line is rather convoluted, which made it tricky to keep track of which races characters belong to and what relationships they might have to one another (friend or foe). Perhaps the lack of clarity is intentional so as to draw readers to purchase subsequent volumes where it all gets explained, but I personally didn’t find the main character or her backstory compelling enough to go on to the next volume. Yet, I do appreciate the writer’s creation of a world that, like our own, struggles with class and race matters, which lead to conflict and grasping for “ultimate weapons” to subdue the “other.”