Monstress is the one series where, despite really enjoying it early on, is one where I seem to always purchase the next trade and then not read it for months at a time, forgetting who half the characters are, and then finally picking it up and reminding myself why I dug it in the first place. Then the cycle begins anew.
Case in point, I finally got to the 5th trade, subtitled Warchild.
War has been brewing between the humans and the Arcanics since before the series started, as seen in this trade where war breaks out between the two groups. Maika Halfwolf, Kippa, and Lord Corvin are in the Arcanic city of Ravenna, and human forces are encroaching on the lands outside. Arcanics are wanted by different factions within the human kingdoms for experimental purposes, and the city will be utterly destroyed if Maika can’t figure out what to do about it. That means rallying the people there and defending the walls as best she can. A lot of people are going to die no matter what she does, but if anyone can find a way to keep most of the city standing, it’s her.
By the by, I am not kidding when I say a lot of people will die in this one. Writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda do not shy away from all manner of atrocities, committed by both sides in the grand scheme of things. One two page spread late in the trade shows before and after shots of people in the city celebrating time together before showing how the war treated them, either with dead or mutilated characters, generally nameless but still horrifying. Kippa, just a small child who can see when people lie, does her best to save lives and only ends up costing more.
However, Maika isn’t unfamiliar with war as this storyarc has a pair of flashbacks going on. One is basically how Maika got a godlike being inside her body in the first place as that creature’s memories start to surface. The other shows how Maika, as a small child, was forced by human forces into retrieving weapons off an active battlefield. Both show a deeper connection between Maika and the god than had previously been suspected, and both show just what a rotten life Maika has been cursed with all this time.
As it is, Maika’s childhood experiences may be what saves the day in the end. Or, at least, for now. The war isn’t over, and the forces that want the people fighting are still out there.
Once again, I found Liu’s story compelling, and once again, I found Takeda’s artwork beautiful even if many of the characters look nearly identical. It’s one of the more frustrating aspects of Monstress where I spend so much time between trades, but also the characters all look so similar it can be tough to sometimes tell them apart.
Oh, and of course I have the next trade already to sit in my unread trade stack. Maybe I’ll get to this one faster.
8.5 out of 10 duplicitous cats.