ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review of Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening

Updated on July 31, 2020
satomko profile image

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Cover of the second issue of Monstress, art by Sana Takeda.
Cover of the second issue of Monstress, art by Sana Takeda. | Source

In a steampunk fantasy world, Maika Halfwolf is searching for answers as to what happened to her mother and why an entire city was destroyed. Her clandestine actions threaten a tense truce between the humans and Arcanics of her world, and she comes into possession of a heretical artifact that makes her a target of both the fanatical Inquisitrix of the humans and the secretive Dusk Court of immortals. Nearly friendless, Maika endangers herself and everyone around not only with her reckless pursuit of answers but also with the one of the Old Gods hiding in her body, threatening to overtake her consciousness and consume all it can see. Harried from within and without, Maika’s personal vendetta puts her on a collision course with everyone who has an interest in maintaining the oppressive status quo.

Horror from Beyond the Stars

Along with the fantasy and steampunk elements, Monstress is overflowing with violence, brutality, gore, and a helping of Lovecraftian horror. All of these elements, though, fit organically within the narrative and setting. None of the blood or horror is there for shock value; it all works in service to the story. In the setting, the levels of technology, magic, social control, and what not all make sense in context, and it is clear that a lot of planning went into not only crafting the setting but also choosing how much and how little to explain about it. The background information is doled out a bit at a time to the reader instead of with what would have been large, irritating exposition dumps. In between chapters there are “Lectures from Professor Tam Tam” about the setting, but these don’t occur until halfway through the graphic novel, meaning they act to expand upon the information readers have already learned rather than overload them with needless lore. Author Majorie Liu almost always hits the mark when deciding how much the reader can be trusted to keep up with the story.

The few times that Monstress seems to miss a step is when it switches to characters with whom readers have only a tenuous connection, such as the start of chapter four and the middle of chapter five. For some readers, it may also diminish the power of the horrific entity residing in Maika that it seems to get more and more time on-page the deeper into the graphic novel the reader goes. There is a paradox in becoming familiar with the thoughts and desires of an unfathomable entity, and its mystery, power, and terror are at risk of being diminished the more it appears. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and the shark from Jaws are all more fearsome from limited screen time. Monstress hasn’t yet squandered this opportunity, but readers craving that element of horror might not like the increasing frequency of that Old God appearing.

ラベル: Comic, Image Comics, Marjorie Liu, moment, MONSTRESS, one day, Sana Takeda, 仕事(アメコミ)
ラベル: Comic, Image Comics, Marjorie Liu, moment, MONSTRESS, one day, Sana Takeda, 仕事(アメコミ) | Source

Hierarchy of Consumption

In conjunction with the cosmic and body horror is the social horror. The systematic cruelty and dehumanization is terrifying not only in its nature but also in its casual occurrences. Slavery, mutilation, unethical experimentation, and extrajudicial killing are all standard behaviors. Humans are killing and processing Arcanics and immortal Ancients in order to harvest Lilium from the bodies, a substance that allows human to expand their minds and their lifespans. Propaganda and predation rule the day as humans use their non-human neighbors as an exploitable resource. As such, their whole society has become disfigured by this prejudice and thirst to live longer at the expense of the lives and well being of people who look different. The metaphor isn’t a difficult one to grasp.

On top of this is another layer in which Maika, albeit unwillingly, and the Old Gods have an even more voracious appetite that threatens humans as well as Arcanics. The fear of being devoured touches just about everyone in the graphic novel to one degree or another no matter how much some characters may think they’re safe. This reinforces the theme of the horror of dehumanization because it takes the idea to its most primal conclusion: stripping away all sense of dignity, worth, self, and purpose to be the most basic commodity—food—for someone else.

Monstrum in Her Skin

Sana Takeda’s art is rich and evocative. The level of detail helps to convince readers that the world is similarly vibrant and lived-in, and nearly all the characters have unique and interesting designs to make them identifiable at a glance to readers. Some panels may seem a bit busy, but the intended effect it to slow down readers, having them pay attention to everything happening.

Volume one of Monstress is a great start, and anyone interested in a deep and imaginative fantasy setting with as much story as it has horror and style should pick it up.


Liu, Majorie; Takeda, Sana. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening. Image, 2016.

© 2018 Seth Tomko


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)