MONSTRESS #13 is Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s latest from Image Comics. This issue nimbly moves the story along in subtle ways. Protagonist Maika Half-wolf continues to struggle with grim secrets from her past. In dreams, she experiences flashbacks of her relationship with best friend, Tuya. In the waking world, the hungry monster within her emerges at an inconvenient moment. Meanwhile, the storylines of side characters unfold through brief but meaningful interactions.

Through these short snippets, readers may glimpse at hints of dark forces gaining on Maika. The growing dark cloud that follows her may soon swallow her whole. Still, Liu’s world is not a battleground between pure good and evil. Each scene is colored with shades of grey.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Absence Makes the Heart…

MONSTRESS #13 delves into a part of Maika Halfwolf’s psyche readers rarely see her vulnerable side. We frequently view Maika’s confident, poised exterior. She is a powerful woman, shaped by a mother who would not condone cracks in her child’s perfect facade. She has learned to view emotions as signs of weakness and does her best to hide them.

This issue dares to explore Maika’s tender side right from the start. It opens with what turns out to be a powerful dream sequence. Though separated by vast distances in the real world, Tuya and Maika embrace in the dream. Tuya urges her beloved friend to listen to her advice, but to no avail. We don’t learn what the advice is, and it remains unclear whether the dream is pure fantasy or based on memory. Nevertheless, the sweet moment stands out from the darkness of many of Maika’s memories.

Later, Tuya herself reveals her own hidden tenderness towards Maika. At the Dawn Court with Maika’s grandmother, Tuya criticizes the older woman for failing to protect Maika. She says: “If you cared, you would have torn apart the known world, defied everyone to find her.” The scene ends abruptly and somewhat ambiguously. Tuya has presumably decided to take steps towards helping the woman who means so much to her. She declares: “Let’s do what we both know must be done.” Readers may not know exactly what this entails. Still, the scene hints it relates to Tuya’s deep love for our protagonist.

Marjorie Liu Talks the X-MEN, Identity, and MONSTRESS at NYCC 2017!

Compassion and Conflict in MONSTRESS #13

This issue constantly juxtaposes goodness and darkness within characters. Again and again, Liu subtly reminds readers this world contains both light and shadow. In one instance, Ren the cat experiences discrimination. Waiters refuse to serve him at the same table as Maika because of his species. Adding insult to injury, the incident takes place at a camp intended for refugees. Maika speaks up, refusing to let this incident pass in silence, though Ren decides to switch tables anyway.

In another scene, compassion comes first. Lady Atena and Resak raise awareness that Cumaea is dissecting Arcanic children. Simply because these children are different, they face terrors at the hands of those in power.

With small moments such as these, Liu lends boundless layers of richness to her world. This world, like our own, contains endless injustices. Many are matched by reckonings, great and small. One of the character’s notes: “Compassion requires its own courage, to quote the poets. Especially when all others believe you a fool for being kind.” In fact, Liu and Takeda harness this compassion throughout their tale. For instance, Liu’s complex characters allow readers to take on a range of perspectives. We experience empathy for characters whose motives counter Maika’s. Meanwhile, Takeda’s stunning art depicts friends and lovers on each opposing side. By seeing each side as capable of love, we see them as being like us after all.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

The Subtle Art of World-Building

Overall, the issue is soft on plot. Mostly, we glimpse a meeting between Maika and Corvin at the camp. Still, Liu’s fast-paced dialogue moves the story forward. Her witty characters trade barbs and pearls of wisdom. Crucially, Maika faces a painful choice: whether to protect herself or her friends from certain harm.

A MONSTRESS Perspective

Takeda’s gorgeous art adds richness to these characters and their world. Takeda instills each scene with a kind of vibrant darkness. She works in a muted color palette of quiet greens, greys, and blues. Within these restrained colors, she explores a diverse range of shades and textures. This largely shadowy world reflects the grim scenes played out within it. Additionally, her understated tones make pops of color all the more jarring and artificial. For these characters, moments of joy and frivolity are rare, and not to be trusted.

All in all, Marjorie Liu’s latest issue of MONSTRESS #13 continue shading its world in new colors. Intimate conversations show surprising sides of familiar characters. Scenes and interactions end ambiguously, and characters are not painted purely in black or white. Overall, Liu and Takeda have crafted a new issue sure to satisfy new and devoted readers alike. 

This issue is available for purchase beginning January 24, 2018. Find it here.

MONSTRESS #13 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
MONSTRESS #13 is a quick but worthy read for all fans of Liu and Takeda's best-selling series. Stunning art perfectly shows the interplay of light and shadow that characterizes Maika's world. Our protagonist continues to drown in a world of secrets and half-truths, where thoughts of love and family stir up old darknesses.
92 %
Worthy read

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