Monstress No. 21 review: Maika meets the Blood Court


Monstress drops another gorgeous issue with heavy plot developments.

Unless you’re the kind of tasteless, pablum-consuming “I only read about guys in tights” kind of comic reader, you’ve heard of Monstress, the five-Eisner-winning tale of magic cats, Old Ones, and matriarchies. Stunningly drawn and colored by Sana Takeda, written by the magnificent Marjorie Liu, and lettered by the inimitable Rus WootonMonstress won “Best Continuing Series”, “Best Painter”, “Best Cover Artist”, “Best Publication for Teens”, and the coveted “Best Writer”, which Marjorie Liu shared in a tie with Tom King, the first time in history a woman won that particular award. Those five Eisners should tell you all you need to know about how good this comic is, but this review might tell you a little more. Were the magical cats already mentioned?

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Monstress illuminates how hard family relations can truly be

In the last issue, Maika and the Raven Lord Corvus were beset upon by red-clad warriors, led by an evil priestess and a man claiming to be Maika’s father. This issue begins with Maika’s aunt and Tuya, once Maika’s friend but recently revealed to be a high-ranking operative of the Dusk Court with intentions all her own, sharing some personal time, as Tuya plots against both Maika and her aunt, the Warlord of the Dawn Court. Maika awakens in the laboratory of her father, who is revealed to be the mysterious “Doctor” who had Maika’s friend Kippa kidnapped, with a brand-new cybernetic/steampunk arm replacing her missing arm, which has been gone the entire twenty issues; the Monstrum, Zinn, who lives inside her, consumes her flesh in times of need. Feeling violated, Maika argues with her father, who she has no memories of, distrusting his fatherly claims. He appears to have robot legs, and he quickly shows her photographs of her as a child, with her mother and father, laying the issue to rest.

Image Comics

Meet, but don’t trust, the Blood Court

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Maika’s father, still known only as the Doctor, shows Maika an army, training in service to the Shaman-Empress. A great war is coming between the Cumaea, Arcanics, and devotees of the Shaman-Empress, and Maika’s father has gathered the greatest warriors he can find to his side. Her father introduces her to the Blood Court, an assembly of famed fighters, who possess battle skills such as iron skin, weapons prowess, and the power of anticipation, which comes in pretty handy when you’re trying to survive a fight. The depictions of these characters can’t be explained in any words less than “glorious” and “dream-like”; Takeda truly earned her Eisners, as this issue and all the others show. Maika knows most of the assembled warriors, and they’ve heard of her, and she learns that her cat companion, Ren Mormorian, has been in the employ of her father their entire friendship. The issue ends with the implication that Zinn betrayed the Shaman-Empress in the past, which Zinn cannot recall.

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It’s rare that a comic looks amazing, is written amazingly, and stays consistently amazing the entire run, but that’s exactly what Monstress has been pulling off for three trade paperbacks. And it looks to be continuing to do it for the foreseeable future. Waxing poetic in an online comic review simply doesn’t do the art and storyline justice, so you’re probably better off just grabbing the first issue from your LCS and finding our on your own. 10/10, critically recommended. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.