I’ve been a fan of Marjorie M. Liu’s work for years. From her work on the Hunter Kiss novels to The Astonishing X-Men, Liu’s masterful and inventive storytelling creates deep, expansive worlds that consume the reader.
Liu’s latest work is no different. Teaming up with Japanese artist Sana Takeda, Monstress is a lush, art deco influenced exploration of war and power. In her own words:
MONSTRESS is the story I’ve wanted to tell for years, a dark epic fantasy about a young girl who has suffered tremendous loss and who isn’t quite certain how to put herself back together — if that’s even possible. To make matters worse, she fears something else is living inside her: a monster. And she’s right to be afraid.
My other motivation for telling this story is that powerful women are always imagined as monstrous. Bringing women, monsters, and power together — setting this in a world that never was, and could be — is something that speaks to my heart. Every single girl in the world has had to fight to have herself heard, to have space and a self in societies that try their best to deny them all three. Every single girl, whether we want to recognize it or not, is a warrior. And me writing about a young warrior woman is less a fantasy than a reflection of what it means to grow up a woman in societies like ours.
Set against the backdrop of an alternate 1900s Asia, Monstress blends steampunk and kaiju to tell deeply personal story about loss, war, and jihad. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she explains the core questions underlying the work:
“What does it take to hold on to one’s humanity when you’re forced to suffer the long, continuous, dehumanizing experience of war? Is it just strength? Is it something in your character? Is it the kinds of friends you surround yourself with?” — which is one of the key themes to the series. “Other questions I’ve wrestled with, both in this book and others [are] what it means to be of mixed race, what it means to straddle the borderlands of two cultures,” she added.
“The world of Monstress is one that has been torn apart by racism, slavery, by the commodification of mixed race bodies that produce a valuable substance that humans require like a drug. Even if you look human, you might not be safe. It’s a familiar story to people of color in this country, and in the last four or five years I’ve found myself deeply immersed in the study of identity and race, especially in the Asian American context.”
Check out the whole interview, it’s well worth the read.
If you haven’t picked up a copy, there are 500 signed editions at Midtown comics in NYC. (Not the Grand Central location, as I found out the hard way yesterday. They will get them in a few weeks.)
If you have read the comic, after the jump, I’ll talk a bit about female characters and darkness, particularly around one particular scene in Monstress. There are light spoilers from Monstress.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS, CLICK WITH CAUTION.