Monstress #26 Review

by Nick Devonald on February 25, 2020

Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letters: Rus Wooton

This issue feels like a real turning point for Maika. She’s beginning to find peace in who she is. Of course the acceptance of that also means the narrative takes a bit of a darker tone as well. There is an inevitability of that, with war not just on the horizon but instead on the doorstep, so of course things are going to take a turn for the worse. One of my personal favourite things about this comic is it takes its time telling the story. If you were to sum up events of this issue not a lot happens. Yet at the same time so much does. Maika coming to accept her place in the world is something which has been coming from #1. This is such a big moment. Yet Marjorie Liu is happy to take her time telling us that. She definitely understands how to show not tell.

The last issue started off 6 years ago, with the battle of Constantine. This issue does the same. It’s an effective way of showing us the horrors of war. It also justifies Maika and her actions when we first encountered her. Suffering PTSD, disconnected, cold. It serves to highlight the changes she’s gone through as the series progresses. The contrast between who she was at Constantine, the girl we first met in #1, then the young woman here. It also lets us understand her actions here, while they could be misconstrued as cold and uncaring, rather they are pragmatic. War is here, not everyone will survive, sometimes what is needed isn’t a hero.

Then there’s Kippa. Her innocence contrasts sharply with Maika’s callousness. In many ways she’s acted as Maika’s conscious throughout this series and has made her a better person for it. Look at how Maika has progressed throughout the series, she now refers to Kippa, and others, as friends. If proof was needed of Maika's growth here it is.

This issue has more than a couple of moments which are harsh and brutal, yet worse is still to come. Within the next couple of issues war is going to find our heroes. And this is one series which doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war. I look forward to seeing how the war will be handled by Liu and Takeda. If the rest of the series is any indication it will be incredible.

There is a scene between Maika and Zinn which is both touching and revealing. A compromise, or truce, of a kind is reached. And with this pact, and a new acceptance of Maika’s role, the future promises to be interesting. I can’t help but feel she’s going to need Kippa’s conscious more than ever. It promises to be both necessary, and dark.

Liu’s worldbuilding is second to none in the comic book world. I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic where the world is so intricate and well realised. Each new issue reveals some new facet of the world. And just as she’s never held the readers hand a lot of the details need to be figured out by the reader, yet it’s never so obtuse that we can’t understand what’s going on. And we have the section at the end from Professor Tam Tam which always reveals even more hidden depths to the world.

Sana Takeda’s art is, as always, simply breath-taking. I think it’s a fair comment to say she’s, hands down, one of the best artists in the medium. I can’t heap enough praise on her art. She handles everything that’s thrown her way with nothing but incredible skill. She’s at home revealing the brutatlities of the battlefield as she is the fantastical cities, from shrines to magical forests. The level of detail is incredible. Facial features that reveal as much, if not more, than the writing does.

Every issue of this series is incredible and this one is no different. If you’ve been reading this series from the beginning there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be picking this one up. If you’ve heard good things and are on the fence about picking it up? Do, but don’t start reading here. Go back to the beginning. You won’t regret it. Fantastical world building alongside outstanding art makes this one of the best ongoing comics on the market. More than worthy of all the awards it’s won.

Our Score:


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