The exceedingly talented team of Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda debut MONSTRESS today, their new ongoing series that tackles subjects from revenge to war to trauma to magic, but can also be described as the story of a young woman and her monster. Set in a reimagined early 1900s, the story is set in a version of Asia we've never seen before, one rife with witch-nuns, slave trading, monsters, and worse. Takeda's art is full of fine detail and great character acting, while Liu's script sings with both wit and despair. Together, they bring the kind of first issue that creates fans-for-life, and the fact that MONSTRESS #1 is three times the size of most debuts will seal the deal. Here is Everything You Need To Know about MONSTRESS #1, including a quick preview!
It's Huge: First issues are a fraught thing in comics. You have to introduce your world, set-up the ongoing story, and do something that hooks the reader, all in 20 or 22 pages. On top of all that, your first issue has to be something weighty enough that the reader feels like their time was well spent. Takeda & Liu are taking a different route: the first issue of MONSTRESS is three times the size of most comics, and a little over half the size of most collected editions these days. That much space gives Liu & Takeda space to really establish the world of MONSTRESS and introduce you to the subtleties of the land.
It's Something Different: You'll recognize the ingredients in MONSTRESS—the series features war, monsters, evil jailers, witch-nuns, and cruelty delivered to the lower class from the upper class. But it's the mix that's different, the way Liu & Takeda have taken all these concepts we know and enjoy and turned them into something new. MONSTRESS takes place in an alternate version of early 1900s Asia, with a firm art deco influence in its visual style. This world is different from ours, more ornate and cruel, and one where magic and science aren't too far off from each other. MONSTRESS is a book that shows the freedom of creator-owned comics, as Liu discusses in this blog post.
The Pedigree Is Amazing: Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are creators you should be paying attention to. Takeda's artwork was unique before, and now that she's working on MONSTRESS, she's taking things to the next level. As she says in this interview with Chase Magnett, Takeda wants "...to betray my art style and do something entirely new." Her style was already very lush and exciting, with an affinity for both action scenes and character acting. The new things she's trying now build on the firm foundation she had before—her approach to fashion has taken a leap forward, among other things, and the mood of MONSTRESS is tense and claustrophobic without being overbearing. Liu discusses her own hopes and dreams for the series in this interview with Zachary Clemente, saying, "Sana is constantly inspiring me, and not only that, she inspires me to do better because God help me if I write a bad script for an artist this wonderful. It would be a shameful thing." Two creators consistently working to top each other is a good way to get great comics.