Showing posts with label Marjorie Liu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marjorie Liu. Show all posts

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 6 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WARTY!

This final part - certainly the final part I plan on reading - continues to have Maika and the monster explore her consciousness (or unconsciousness if you like) while she's imprisoned in the sarcophagus. The monster looks more like a one-eyed mummy here and less like the evil tarry, sticky creature we've hitherto seen. Maika continues to pine for Tuya, who evidently doesn't feel the same way about her!

The artwork is once again remarkable, but this is supposed to be a story, not a coffee table picture book, and the story has become far too bogged-down to be interesting to me. There's a reason that Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 - he's quite literally an action figure, and while he is rather trite and simplistic compared with this story under review, he does move (faster than a speeding bullet!). This story doesn't - or more accurately, it doesn't feel like it moves; it feels mired and stagnant, and this made me lose all interest in it which is sad in consideration of how appealing it was in the early parts of this volume. I can't recommend this one and do not feel inclined to pursue this story any further.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 5 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WARTY!

This one went further downhill for me and I really can't recommend it at this point.

We meet the almost insanely cruel Ilsa, then move to the half-faced "angel" who offers Maika, Kippa, and Ren the two-tailed cat safe harbor, but in the words of Admiral Ackbar, "It's a trap!" Maika becomes confined to a sarcophagus, where she retreats into her memories followed, unexpectedly, by the monster she harbors. The monster tries to convince her to give him control, whereupon he will, he claims, free them.

I can't recommend this because although the art work remains good, the story itself seems to be circling the drain rather than going anywhere interesting, and where it is going is taking forever to happen. Reading this has become too much work for the reward.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 4 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WORTHY!

While the art work continues to be remarkable (which is why this gets a 'worthy read' appellation), the story has begun to fall off somewhat. Initially it was full of mystery and promise and adventure, and while some of the mystery is being exposed, the story has begun to develop a meandering quality like it doesn't quite no where to go. I'm committed to finishing these six parts of volume one, but I am not enjoying this as much as I had hoped and expected to based on the early parts.

It has become difficult for me to figure out who is who and what they're after, and while sometimes that's not a bad thing, I think as this point, the lay of the land ought to have had a lot more clarification in this case. We keep meeting people and they're not often introduced properly for my taste, so I feel left in the dark rather more than I ought to feel by this place in the story.

This is a problem with writing - you may have the plot all mapped out and be intimately familiar with the characters, but your readers are never automatically so well-informed. Without some help they're never going to get to know them like you, the writer, does. Naturally this doesn't mean larding up an elegant story with a massive info-dump, but this graphic novel is quite wordy, so it's not like the writer is shy about telling the story. I just wish it was more informative.

What it looks like to me is that grown-up versions of our main characters (Maika and Kippa) are hunting for them. At first I thought we had leaped forward in time and these characters actually were the grown-up versions of the young ones we first met, but it soon became clear they're not. We meet a bunch of new characters, including a monkey guy and more multi-tailed cats, and we see Maika once again wrestle with her monster, but the story itself hasn't really moved in a couple of parts now. Maika is still int eh dark about what's going on, as is the reader, and it's becoming annoying. I'm recommending this one only because of the art and the fact that it's necessary to read this to get to the next part! For the art, it's a worthy read. The art really is wonderful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 3 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an advance review copy for which I thank the publishers and creators, and I have to say the quality is maintained with great writing and lush art work (lush in the sense of rich and detailed not in the sense of being created by an artist with a fondness for alcohol! LOL!). One thing I was pleased with was how quickly the pages turned. Sometimes with a publication that is heavy with images, the page turns can be excruciatingly slow, but that is not the case with this series. The only issue I had was that some pages were missing the speech from the speech balloons! I've seen this before in other graphic novels, and I also encountered it in part one of this series. In this particular part, it was pages 14, 16 (where all speech balloons were blank except for one which appropriately read >GASP<! LOL!) and 18.

In this part we again meet Yvette and Destria who are fond of wearing bird-beak-like masks over their faces. Yvette was the one who was brought back to life in part two. Apparently she was forgiven, but not to the point of regaining any sort of normality in appearance. The mask evidently hides her disfigurement, but regardless of their physical appearance, these women are not pleasant people.

One thing I have to ask about is why we get the title of Monstress? Why not Monster? It seems to me that the two words do not convey the same thing, irrespective of whatever gender content they might profess. Monster indicates that the bearer of the title is a monster, whereas Monstress, which invokes 'monstrous' could be construed as the way this character, Maika, actually is - a person who has some sort of control over, or link with a monster or monsters? But I have a better question: if we're going to have Monstress, then why not have Inquisitress? But we don't get Inquisitress, nor do we get inquisitor. We get Inquisitrix, which is no more of a real word than is 'Monstress' or 'Monstrix'.

Of course, it's entirely up the the writer what word she chooses, but to me words are important and convey meaning, and this is especially true in a work of fiction where new concepts and ideas are being promoted, so I can't help but be curious about what's being promoted here. On the one hand we have a powerful story, populated with powerful females who dominate the tale (males are highly conspicuous by their absence), yet on the other, we have word forms which are gender specific and which in other contexts are not typically used with respect towards women. Anything ending in 'trix' is unlikely to be complimentary since the one most commonly used is dominatrix, something which these days has strong sexual and perversion connotations. The only other comparable word is aviatrix, which has fallen into disuse.

Words ending in 'ess' are even worse, the most common one being 'mistress' signifying at best, a possession, and at worst, a women of questionable morals. Words ending in -ess and applied to women typically are used to segregate. Is that what we're seeing here in this matriarchical world? It's questions like this which are part of what interests me. I am curious, inter alia, as to whether these words were chosen deliberately to serve a purpose, or thoughtlessly offering nothing more than cheap novelty? I hope it's not that simple! I shall be very disappointed if it is.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 2 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WORTHY!

Part two (featuring the disturbingly foxy feminine profile on the cover), takes up right where part one left off, thankfully. Maika has escaped with Kippa and the two-tailed sentient cat, with whom she definitely does not get along, and her captors are being abused mercilessly for their incompetence by a new faction - the bitches who are witches, evidently. One of the dead is brought back to life to account for her incompetence - that's how evil these guys are!

This is a lot shorter volume than the previous one - as are all the rest in this series - at a more standard comic book length of 32 pages. The trio have taken up with a farmer who is traveling to sell her potatoes and such, but Maika's journey is about to be interrupted.

Before writing this review, I watched a show on Netflix about these guys in Britain who built a robot using only prosthetics developed to replace human body parts. The final thing was worth a million dollars in parts alone. It was weird and creepy and ultimately unsatisfying because they appeared to promise a lot more than they delivered, but one of the guys involved in the show sported a prosthetic lower left arm, and when he removed it, his limb looked exactly like Maika's! I mention this, because it's in this volume that we learn what Maika's arm looked like before.

Again the artwork was outstanding, but in terms of moving the story, not a whole lot happened until the last portion of it, which made me feel a bit like asking why the first part wasn't split into two and this actual part two not shortened somewhat? That said, it was still a worthy read and made me look forward to part three. We got some background and some holes filled in, and met some new characters who proved to be as scary as they were interesting.

In part one, I'd noted two pages where, in this advance review copy, the speech balloons were completely blank! I've seen this in other graphic novels, but in this case, part two was fine with no missing speech. Once again thanks to the publisher and creators for the chance to read and comment on this advance review copy.

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening Part 1 of 6 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: WORTHY!

Two of the pages in this graphic novel had completely empty speech balloons! I've seen this phenomenon before in other graphic novels. There are no page numbers to quote from the graphic novel itself, but on my iPad, Bluefire Reader identifies the page numbers as 52, and 62.

In 1999, the American Library Association found that only 33% of children aged 11-18 read comic books, and when considering girls alone, this was down to 27%. More recently (2014) on Facebook, self-identified comic fans numbered some 24 million in the USA, of which almost half (~47%) were female. These were two different surveys covering different demographics and using different methodologies, but from this it sure looks like women are beginning to feel like they're finally being catered to.

I think that's a very good reason to celebrate by reading this remarkable series which is both written (Marjorie Liu) and illustrated (Sana Takeda) by women. It's also a very good reason to ask why, after over a decade of modern blockbuster comic book-based movies, we have yet to get one which is centered on a female character! I'll leave that question out there!

This is a very richly illustrated series of which I got the first six installments as advance review copies, and for which I thank the comic book creators for this fine work, and the publisher Image Comics, and Diamond Book distributors. The series is comprised of six volumes, all of which are thirty two pages except for the first, which is seventy-two pages long. It is beautifully illustrated in sumptuous detail, and the time and effort which has gone into this is quite staggering to contemplate. But it was worth it! Takenada must really love her work!

The story is well told and begins with teenager Maika, a naked, one-armed female slave, who is part of a collection of 'freaks' being sold to an idle bunch of self-centered and wealthy old white(-haired) men for the purpose of being their property. It's rather reminiscent of a scene from the Australian movie Sleeping Beauty which has nothing whatsoever to do with the fairy-tale, but which is a live-action movie starring the remarkable Emily Browning who at one point finds herself in a similar position, but at least Lucy has a choice in her participation. Maika does not.

This is however, a matriarchal society, and just as the bidding on Maika, who is referred to as an Arcanic, begins, she's quickly snapped-up not by one of the men, but by an influential nun known as Sophia Fekete, who maintains a lab at the Cumaea compound. Maika and her 'companions, a "fox cub, the cyclopean freak, and the stubby one with those useless wings" are transported to the city of Zamora with a sour-faced guardian by the name of Ilsa, who tells them they will be killed. Ilsa tells them that being smart and obedient might keep them alive, but nothing will keep them whole.

For Sophia, the interesting thing about Maika is the symbol tattooed above her breastbone. It has associations with monster worship, and Sophia has never seen a person branded with it before. Most people discount and discredit stories that people can raise the monstra, but Sophia does not. Maika and her 'friends' are incarcerated.

This is not a story for children. The art is beautiful although at times disturbing. The writing is threatening, deadly, and abusive. There are four-letter words and dismemberment, and some weird and crazy characters. But Maika doesn't have that particular tattoo for nothing, and just what it's for? People are going to find out in short order. I recommend this volume one unreservedly.