Co-created by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda, ‘Monstress’ tells the story of young Maika Half-Wolf and her path to discovering the monster within… There is literally a monster within her. Maika shares her body with Zinn, an Old God, who manifests his destructive nature whether with or without the foreknowledge of his host. This symbiotic relationship leads the pair on a discovery of their origins and the lore of the world around them – and there is a lot of lore to go around.
As a multi-awarded series in fiction and graphic media, ‘Monstress’ will drown you in its massive worldbuilding at the onset. The series introduces you to races such as Arcanics, Ancients, and Old Ones while immersing you in the subterfuge of organizations such as The Cumae, and the Dawn and Dusk Courts. If you’re a cat lover,’Monstress’ holds these animals in high regard and depicts them as intelligent talking two-legged walking saviors against the Old Gods.
The setting is based on an alternate version of Asia with a matriarchal society. Though the storytelling is crisp and the art is beautifully presented, these are not the only draws of the series. ‘Monstress’ is not your typical comic book fantasy series. It is reminiscent of ‘Dune‘ with its political intrigue and subterfuge, while also taking a page from ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ with its use of expansive history and elaborate character backgrounds.
The writing, art and worldbuilding are all strong points of the series. However, the strongest aspect of ‘Monstress’ is the inclusive and diverse nature of its characters starting from its main protagonist, Maika. Maika is not only a child. She is also a young girl who holds one of the most powerful primordial forces of destruction in the Old God, Zinn. Zinn is primarily driven by hunger and desire, which in effect represents a partial nature of children.
As Maika continues on her journey with Zinn, she learns to control this hunger and desire in a world that is ruled by adults who tell her or guide her what to do. In this case, ‘Monstress’ shows Maika’s journey into adulthood as she measures her base desires, represented by Zinn, and learns to control her emotions with reason. It’s a beautiful message that shows how children can grow into adulthood influenced by the adult supervision around them.
I got the chance to ask ‘ Monstress‘ co-creator Marjorie Liu what inspired her to create Maika. I pointed out certain similarities between X-23 Laura Kinney (a character she wrote for Marvel Comics) and Maika. She answered, “There’s something about a traumatized young woman; that’s a thing for me.” Later, Marjorie shared the importance of layered characters to the narrative storytelling of ‘Monstress’. She explained, “In the case of ‘Monstress’, characters came first. It’s a very organic process. It’s all linked together.”
Aside from Zinn, there are other important characters that join Maika on her journey. Of note is a young Arcanic (just like Maika) who goes by the name Kippa. Unlike Maika, who is angry and vindictive; Kippa is very optimistic, and, to some extent, naive of the world around her. She is the balance to Maika’s oftentimes hotheadedness, though she is a lot younger than Maika. Through Maika and Kippa’s eyes, we see ‘Monstress’ tackle themes such as feminism, racism, slavery, and war. Also, in a world full of different faces among different races, the series forces us to look beyond our fleshy facade and search for the hidden beauty we all have within.
‘Monstress’ is a series about empowerment, and how to properly wield the power we have. Through Maika, we learn how this power can be shaped by you, and can shape you. However, it also helps to have the power to decide either way. Immerse yourself in the continuing comic book series that is ‘Monstress’ and see where Maika’s journey of discovery will take you (and her).