I love stories. I’ve loved them ever since I was old enough to make up fantastical tales about my LEGO minifigs and the vehicles I’d build. As I’ve gotten older, studying stories and my fascination with them has led to the theories behind them and they, too, become stories that I like to hear. When you boil all the stories that you’ve ever been told, they all have similar pieces. Perhaps they’re out of order a touch, but we as human beings are using all the same underlying language, the movement of emotion and ways of connecting us with who we are and who we may fear ourselves to be. Most five-year-olds could tell us a story about two toys fighting to be their favorite, but the majesty of Pixar’s first feature is in how they assembled all of the elements that are intrinsic to the human experience that let us into their world in a sublime way. The montage in Up may be the single greatest example of this skill as art, as without a single utterance we are not only given an entire lifetime of a tale in a short span, but we are emotionally prepared for the rest of the film. So, why have I been going on like a film student with a thesis? I’m trying to describe just how difficult good storytelling can be, and how even with all the right pieces and parts, not all stories can live up to the seminal moments that some seem to effortlessly weave together for us. This is the same feeling I get when I open each issue of Monstress; it’s a world I want to disappear into for days, because it’s been brought to such beautiful life by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. They have the same tools that we all have access to just by being alive, and yet have brought them together in a way that surpasses, at least for me, most other works out there today. I’m not putting this book above anything else, but what it does, it does with such grace and precision that it holds a class all its own.
This is a dense work. There are a lot of players involved and they’re all operating on a myriad of levels. This issue brings us a great deal more of Maika, being in the seat of her mother’s influence and dealing with those she may not have seen for decades. Liu introduces us to one of my favorite tertiary characters so far in Seiz Imura, a Yakuza-like figure with strange and strong ties to our protagonist. If you’ve ever enjoyed Booster Terrick from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, you’ll fall in love with him as hard as I did. He’s the “gangster with a heart,” and yet there’s such a depth to him that he rises well above any stereotype. Liu also shows us more of Maika taking charge which is wondrous and terrifying all at once, wrapping up incredible cold logic with the passionate and, at times, vulnerable Little Wolf. Dangling many long storylines throughout these that are more in the forefront fuels the love and frustration I have with this title. The frustration is, of course, the wait from back cover on one issue until the front of the next.
Sana Takeda is making one of the most beautiful books on the planet right now. Her technique is incredibly detailed and wondrously fluid. The movement from one panel to the next is stunning and graceful, letting characters take us along their journey at any given moment. I’ll find myself paging back through the issue to simply follow along the story without glancing in the dialogue bubbles. Every motion and pose is meticulously crafted, and you can certainly tell exactly what’s going on without reading a word. The dynamics between the characters take on a life that extends out beyond the page, reveling in teasing their secrets. Every part of the page is used to incredible effect, using subtle hints to make us ask more questions about the people who used to be in the spaces we see now.
Liu and Takeda have leaped to the top of my favorite creators list. This is a series that rewards the patient and discerning reader, and I simply can’t get enough of it. Check it out today.
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