And so we have arrived at the finale for the first arc of Monstress. The last issue left off on a dangerous and shocking moment, so let’s see how our protagonist gets out of this one. Is it good?
Monstress #6 (Image Comics)
And… our protagonist does not get out of this one. Maika Halfwolf has been beaten and shoved into a box that has put her into a deep coma off-panel. She and the strange creature in her mind called a Monstrum are combing the memories of the past for some answers. Maybe something that could help them too. On the outside, a battle between the Federation and witches and the Arcanic rages on…
Monstress #6 is a thrilling finale to the first story arc. While it is annoying that the last issue’s cliffhanger was just quickly glanced over (the whole epic battle happened off panel), the comic does make up for it by giving readers plenty of excitement. There are a couple of fights, including the first real faceoff between the big bad and our protagonist, some minor revelations, and a bit of a surprise at the end as well. Story-wise, I feel fans will really enjoy what happens here and be excited for where the series will go, since the ending is cloudy on what’ll happen next.
Character-wise, I’m personally a little mixed. Maika has been decently evolving over the course of the first arc. She was initially closed off, seeking revenge and answers for what had happened in the past, and uncomfortable with and worried for the people around her (when you have a monster inside of you that’ll eat and consume anybody around you, that’s understandable). After the ending, she feels more hopeful, open to her allies, and seems like she’s learning to work with/figure out how to control the beast within her. Maika feels like she has grown and it should be interesting to see how she continues to develop.
The rest of the cast unfortunately doesn’t feel as developed. Kippa is alright, but she strikes me as the standard morality kid that’s there to be adorable and help Maika keep herself together. She doesn’t do anything and her trust in Maika seems iffy. Master Ren is amusing and smart, but that’s it. Corvin has motivations, but they’re vague and not well defined. The main villain is intimidating and the reveal with her was great, but the rest of the villains left a bit to be desired. Two of them, who were regularly chasing our heroes for most of the arc, disappear for most of the issue and only briefly cameo at the end. Yvette didn’t really do a lot, and I’m honestly surprised she even survived at the end.
Marjorie Liu does a fine job on writing duty, minus one or two spots. Her pacing is brisk and constantly on the move; the story never slows down, always having something going on from the action to the revelations from Maika’s past. The dialogue is decent and no one comes across as sounding unnatural, though nothing jumps out in particular either. The characterization and developments with Makia were good like mentioned and while not everyone is really all that developed, there is occasionally a good character moment. The biggest problem, at least for me anyway, is the lore and politics. While significantly lessened from previous issues, the main issue Monstress has is that there’s too much politics, technical terms, and motivations at play. It’s honestly hard to keep up with what or who people are, why they do what they do, and everything else. This lore really needed to be spaced out better throughout this arc or at the very least, there needed to be a glossary page at the end of each issue that explained things. The history bits with the cats never were really that helpful due to bad layouts, placement of word balloons, and dull presentation.
Sana Takeda’s artwork is fantastic looking here. The characters are wonderfully drawn, being both distinguishable from one another and creatively designed (Mother Superior really stands out in particular this issue with almost Junji Ito-like influences). The layouts are nice and despite being a cluttered in some panels, never are a detriment to following what is happening. The action, while eye-catching in terms of design and brutality, is on the static side and does not particularly flow well or have a great sense of motion to it. Takeda also has these moments where her art style gets rather manga-ish with the big eyes and more exaggerated facial expressions in some panels. Unfortunately, while not often, this little quirk with the art doesn’t really work or fit the tone of the book. It always feels out of place in such a serious story whenever something looks very cutesy or Chibi-ish.
Is It Good?
Monstress #6 is a great finale for the first arc, especially for the fans that are able to keep up with its extensive politics and lore. If you have difficulty with that though, it does feel harder to get invested in when you don’t feel connected to the characters or understand the motivations that well. Otherwise, there’s a lot right to this comic when it comes to its main character, story, and artwork. Hopefully, the comic keeps up the momentum and excitement when it returns in August.