Review: Monstress #5

monstress_05-1It’s difficult to believe the story in Monstress #5 was contained to a single issue. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have outdone themselves in bringing the latest chapter of Maika’s story to life. Monstress’s oversized first issue certainly established that the story is a steampunk fantasy epic, but #5 truly gives the sense that this is a series to watch in the long haul.

The newest installment in Liu’s fantasy epic offers answers, background, and significant character development in what is perhaps the most information-packed issue since Monstress #1. The summary at the beginning of the book is always helpful, because even the closest of reads can leave readers missing details. Monstress #4 left Maika being hunted by the Federation of Man, the religious Cumaea, the Arcanic Dawn Court, and now, the Dusk Court. Monstress #5 provides background on these organizations, developing the stories of the Courts and pushing the plot of the Cumaea along after their stronghold in Zamora was decimated. All signs point toward a dramatic retaliation from the Cumaea, but Liu does establish more depth than their story and background has previously been given. The worldbuilding in the story is often subtle, but is at times overt with lessons from Master Ren featured as something of a postscript to the story. All contribute to a world that is beautiful to look at but unspeakably cruel in nature.

In addition to providing character insight, Monstress #5 deepens the theme of racial inequality. It has already been established that Maika is a war survivor, but the extent of her experience was unknown, and readers will finally get to discover more of Maika’s mysterious origin, as well as background on Tuya, the girl who is present in Maika’s flashbacks. Readers who are on the fence about Monstress would likely benefit from this issue, as it answers a number of questions.

With so much going on, Monstress #5 drives the story in a new direction and raises an entirely new set of questions. The pacing of the story remains as steady as ever, and Maika’s character and relationships with the Monstrum and others continue to develop bit by bit. It’s rare that Maika interacts with people she chooses to interact with, and her relationship with Tuya is a side that Maika doesn’t usually outwardly show.

Sana Takeda’s art is just as stunning as ever, giving each character a distinct set of movements and expressions. The character design (especially for the Dusk Court and Cumaea) is engrossing to look at with gorgeous detail. The colors of the story are muted and dreamy, adding to the fantasy of the story, while pops of color emphasize individual characters. Each new character is more interesting than the last, with variation that keeps every character on the page distinct in race and body type.

As usual, Monstress utilizes every bit of space on its pages to weave an increasingly complex narrative. As usual, though, the story is absolutely worth reading and deserving of the time it takes to understand the narrative.

Story: Marjorie Liu Art: Sana Takeda
Story: 10.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 10.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.