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Monstress: a dazzling, unapologetic, and gruesome adventure

A review of the Monstress comic book

Image Comics
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress might be the most ambitious comic book on the market. It takes guts to go all out and create a swirling fantasy adventure at a time when the industry is trending toward sci-fi, superhero, and more grounded stories. But in this case, that gamble has paid off.

Liu and Takeda have created a world that’s as gorgeous — think the dreamy steampunk aesthetic of the best Final Fantasy games — as it is gruesome and a story that’s as urgent as it is enduring. Our heroine is Maika, a girl with a literal hairy monster inside of her. We get to watch her learn, and she teaches us about survival.

Maika’s monster is what she needs to survive when the world around her wishes she wouldn’t. It gives her great power, but it also makes her feared by some and hunted by others. And all her life, she’s been taught to be scared of it.

Make no mistake, Monstress is a political book. It asks questions about how society treats powerful women and about the war women face on a daily basis. And it offers no tidy answers.