Monstress, Volume 01: Some Good #%@!ing Art

There, I said it. That’s all there is to it.

What’s this? I should probably give you a little more than that? Persuade you, you say. Alright, don’t get your feathers ruffled like so, I’ll do it. I’ve taken the initiative now.

Volume 01: Awakening has a unique art style, slick and gorgeous, showcasing the full skill of Sana Takeda. Obviously inspired by Manga, it’s also informed by Takeda’s work on Marvel series such as X-23 and Ms. Marvel, resulting in an amalgamation that’s unlike most art I’ve personally come across:

Gold and brown and grey are often the colours that dominate the many panels of the first issues of Monstress in particular, creating a human world that looks luxurious but feels cold and metallic. Dominated by science and religious fanaticism alike, the human side of the world of Monstress is nothing short of disturbing. The upper echelons of human society are unnerving, to say the least — humans auction off arcanics (we’ll get to those in a minute) for pleasure, experimentation or …a meal. Disturbing how easily it would be to see this happening; all we need is a comfy distinction of human versus ‘other’ and what ammounts to cannibalism is suddenly acceptable.

Arcanics are half-human and half-ancient. That is to say, they’ll often look like humans, only they’ll usually have a fluffy fox tail, or cat ears or angelic wings; something giving away the fact they’ve got a bit of magical, immortal biped animal-like grandpa/grandma genetic material in them from several generations ago. Arcanics will always be mortal…I think. There’s a lot of them though. Part of the beef arcanics have with humans is that the power behind the human government. the religious Cumaea sect, has been chopping arcanics for their bones, producing a magical resource called lilium for a little while. Lilium has all kinds of wonderful properties — enhancing life duration, healing those at the very edge of death, and only Marjorie M. Liu knows what else.

Knowing this, it’s understandable how humans and arcanics traded some serious blows a while back, a war that ended in tragedy and death, and a tentative peace hobbled by mistrust and downright hatred. I mean, humans hunt cats and put them in cages because they are in fact an arcanist-allied race of hyperintellectual, many-tailed…well, cats. Nothing unusual about that, actually.

The tone of this graphic novel is dark, as you might’ve guessed by now. But it needs to be said and underlined: this is a dark story, a story of death and brutal violence, much of it perpetuated by our own heroine, Maika.

Maika

Maika is dangerous. Possessing power that no arcanic should, Maika’s ignorance of that same power makes her both horrifying and sympathetic. A tragic backstory plays up the sympathy but the power slumbering inside of her is hungry; and whenever that hunger manifests, we get treated to some pretty dark shit. As for who she is as a character? Determined, angry, looking for answers. There is an underlying softness to her, a caring that she seems intent of not showing but which nevertheless comes to display every once in a while, in particular towards the later issues of this volume, whenever we see supporting character and adorable girl-fox-who-is-scared-shitless Kippa.

Kippa is kutta! And by that I mean, cute. I don’t know what phonetic
nonsense I was going for there. She’s loyal despite being afraid most of time
— but she’s got a really good reason so don’t think any less of her.

See? She IS adorable!

What else, what else? There’s a cat! His name is Ren, he’s a nekomancer,
which I’m pretty sure sounds intentionally like a necromancer and that fucks with my head in several ways, mostly because I want to see a cat raise the dead, oh how I want that. New short story idea? You bet! But also, this cat is way too much like me, it’s uncanny.

If you know me, you’ll see the resemblance.

I am in love with this, and it’s no surprise how successful, popular and
critically acclaimed it has become. The writing is on point, offering dramatic tension, character development and plenty of conflict. The art, as you have seen, is a wonder. This truly is a praiseworthy graphic novel, an example of the heights that this mode of storytelling can reach, up there with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Kieron Gillen/Jamie Mckelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine. I’ve already ordered the next two volumes and can’t wait for the fourth, releasing in October of this year. I wish I hadn’t waited this long to get my hands on it, Monstress truly is that kind of story. No wonder it’s won a bunch of Hugo and Eisner(Nominee) Awards!

Oh, and the antagonists? Some of them are pretty fucking scary, and you just can’t put them in the ground, no matter how hard you try. Besides, no matter how hard you try, you won’t do as well as Maika Halfwolf will so you might as well take a seat, open up this volume, and enjoy the ride!

Friday Round-Up: Lovecraftian Horrors on Mars, James Damore AMA,

Moons of Madness looks like fun, doesn’t it? Granted, fun is a relative concept; for me, fun can easily be described as a “Lovecraftian horror game set on Mars,” which also attempts to explore mental health issues in a mature way…while being a hard sci-fi space simulator. Is developer RockPocket Games biting off more than they can chew? I sure hope not!
I don’t actually like horror games, note. It’s been a horribly long time since I’ve even played one!

Moving onto a  somewhat politically charged topic…Remember James Damore, that Google Engineer who got fired for writing a critical document about diversity Google’s ideological echo chamber? He gave an AMA, and it was interesting. I haven’t personally had the time to read the document in its entirety, although I did check out its beginning, and it didn’t sound sexist; rather, it seemed to be going for a calm, rational discussion. I can’t speak for the entirety of its contents, obviously, but the entire debacle around Damore makes for an important case study: Should someone be fired for his differing political and social views, if these make some of his coworkers feel like they’re working in a…violent working environment, was it?
My personal views–this kind of speech shouldn’t be punished. It’s not hateful, or bigoted; it doesn’t call for hurting a portion of the populace. That’s part of the reason why I was so surprised to see the amount of backlash online and on Google.
The AMA is worth a read, at any rate.

Back to gaming, and other news!

Dead in Vinland is coming next year, and I find its graphic style and turn-based survival to be curious enough to keep an eye out in the coming months before its release. You can never have enough hand-drawn games to play, can you?
Apparently it’s based on the core gameplay loop of a game called Dead in Bermuda, with which I have no experience what-so-ever. Perhaps I ought to check it out and write a little something about it.

Book Depository is great, if you-like me- are in a country where shipping costs LOADS OF MONEY! Free shipping is great, and the waiting time (12 days, or 8 business days, in my case, with another two days of preparing the package) is entirely manageable.
I’m very happy to finally have a place from which to buy novels and graphic novels and art books that are insanely difficult to procure in Eastern Europe.

I like Total War: Warhammer, don’t you? It’s a great strategy with a fair amount of flaws but a whole lot of awesomeness going for it. At any rate, its sequel is coming soon, and the last core race of the game was announced a few days ago.
It’s rats, people. Rats.
If you don’t know anything about the Skaven, you might like to read this. I did, and came away from this particular feature more interested in playing with ratpeople than I was before!
The Total War: Warhammer II features I’m most excited about are the additions to the early game– exploration plays a much wider part of the game than it did before, and I imagine it’ll add a whole new dimension to our list of reasons for murdering enemy armies!

I’ve been enjoying James Latimer’s blog. His Hidden Gems are like my Thursday Book Recommendations…only better. You should check his latest post; it’s about Villains by Necessity, which I’m pretty damn excited to read thanks to Latimer’s very post.

StarCraft: Remastered is out, and I don’t have time to play it, and I blame my university for it. Who the hell needs Economic Policy, anyway?

The Hugo Awards were…awarded, as often happens with awards, and I have read none of the winners! I’ll go ahead and remedy that, if you don’t mind. Meanwhile, click here to see the authors and pieces of writing that took an award home this year.

 

Those’re some of the bits and pieces that grabbed my attention this last week, I hope you’ll find them interesting! At any rate, hope to see you around next time!