MONSTRESS #15 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
MONSTRESS #15 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda continues to stun with its gorgeously-rendered portrayal of the powerful women running a fractured matriarchal society. Here, Liu adds further depth to her complex characters by splitting them up from their tight-knit group, giving us telling glimpses into their individual motives, desires, and willful deceptions of themselves and others.
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Artful twists and turns

MONSTRESS #15 is Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s newest issue from Image Comics. Within this issue, Takeda’s stunning, lushly colored art serves to heighten the dreamlike loneliness of protagonist Maika Halfwolf’s world. Meanwhile, Liu weaves equally intriguing but firmly separate story arcs for several main characters.

Thus, she establishes the sense of many journeys occurring alongside Maika’s. She draws our focus particularly on the desires and motives of Ren, Kippa, and Tuya. In doing so, she crafts compelling evidence that the tale’s central friend group has fractured. In its wake, it thrusts these beloved characters onto their own paths for personal fulfillment.

Monstress #15
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Going Solo: A Hero’s Lonely Journey

Writer Liu and artist Takeda shape a dark, strangely beautiful world that Maika must face alone. Maika remains plagued by memories of her childhood as well as a hungry demon beneath her skin. Yet, despite a long journey surrounded by close friends, she has reached a point where she must go alone. Only she can reverse the damage she caused to the potent Pontus Shield. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the comic’s creators depict our hero trapped within a world more isolated and surreal than ever before.

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Takeda’s colorful but melancholy art perfectly captures Maika’s internal crises. Takeda uses a palette of dreamy blues, reds, and swirling purples. She crafts each panel as one full of shadow and blurred borders. We see dark tangles of bodies in Maika’s nightmare.

We watch the ghostly glow of spirit foxes surrounding Kippa and tendrils of dark magic flooding Ren. These surreal scenes increase our sense of wonder and confusion. Where does reality end and the supernatural begin? The fading in and out of each scene heightens readers’ sense of the thin lines between Maika’s real world and her dream world. All the while, Takeda’s gorgeous art pulses and swims with all the roiling movement of Maika’s own troubled emotions.

Monstress #15
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Beast Within: Maika’s Monstrous Conflicts

Similarly, Liu ups the ante with scenes that place Maika’s calm demeanor at odds with her inner turmoil. Maika is increasingly haunted by nightmares and memories. She struggles with the moral conflicts that come with the destruction wrought by her inner Monstrum. In addition, she now faces difficult, time-sensitive decisions that hold consequences for her friends.

These difficult decisions will impact separate factions of the matriarchal society she inhabits at large, and are choices which inevitably she must make on her own. Liu often portrays Maika as bold and brash, yet at times she is distracted and dreamy. Maika is frequently lost in her own thoughts as she reflects on the possible death and destruction her choices may unleash.

Old Characters, New Depth

Throughout MONSTRESS #15, Liu and Takeda reveal intriguing sides of familiar characters we have not yet seen. These glimpses come through brief conversations, as well as the characters’ internal thoughts and reflections. Liu provides new insight into many of these characters’ true intents, unmasking inner darkness or hope.

Monstress #15
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

With Maika (and her Monstrum) facing an independent quest to save the Pontus Shield, Liu frees up supporting characters to take on larger roles. For instance, Kippa begins her own deeply personal journey. She decides to help save fellow Arcanic refugees and fulfill her desires to meet fellow foxes. Meanwhile, Tuya faces her own challenge.

She’s bravely coming to terms with a marriage that will help unite disparate groups, despite her misgivings about the marriage itself. Finally, Liu fills in a dark backstory for wise but enigmatic nekomancer cat, Ren. This storyline will require the cat to make a fateful choice between his own well-being and that of his faithful friend Kippa.

Liu places each character at a tipping point. She requires them to make complex, challenging choices. Each choice sparks a profound internal conflict or quest to fulfill a personal or societal need.

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MONSTRESS #15: Heart of Darkness

MONSTRESS #15 is amongst the deepest and darkest of Liu and Takeda’s issues. The issue places our characters in tenuous, vulnerable states as they attempt to navigate their own paths in a war-torn society. Liu devises reasons for her characters to part ways, shaping separate but parallel personal storylines for Maika, Tuya, and Kippa.

Even Ren receives his own fleshed-out plotline, complete with murky motives and moral decisions he must make. In so doing, Liu skillfully shows her characters’ bravery in isolating circumstances.

In the end, this action-packed issue rewards readers with complex portrayals of beloved characters. The heroes each navigate a tricky balancing act. Ultimately, they must learn to weigh their own needs, desires for love, and safety, against the well-being of their friend group and splintered society.

This issue is available for purchase beginning March 21, 2018. Find it here.

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