Monstress Vol. 3: Haven
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
Monstress Vol. 3: Haven released on the heels of a 2018 Hugo for Best Graphic Story. The previous volume entitled The Blood beat out headlining peers and fan favorites Saga and Paper Girls, in part, I believe, because the world building in Monstress is simply remarkable. Though Saga and Paper Girls have been lauded for representation either on or behind the page, the Liu/Takeda creative duo is a beacon that shines all the brighter, crafting a story that feeds off empowerment, through and through.
Despite being in the throes of war, Monstress, Vol. 3 is certainly a haven after the chaotic and horrific events of the last arc. Yet on a ship in open waters, in the bowels of a sanctuary city, and even within her own mind, Maika Halfwolf is relentlessly pursued. At times, it’s challenging to keep all the factions and their motives in mind, but the story is intricately designed and well-flushed out. Plus, we have esteemed professor Tam-Tam as a guide who provides rich lore in brief respites, a framework that helps keep everything in context.
It seems that now, more than ever, Maika is losing herself to the darkness within. She becomes increasingly colder, increasingly detached from the world, yet she clings to her past with Tuya as though it could give her sanctuary, forgetting those around her who are in need. As the great shield protecting the city is failing with war at their doorstep, another prison strains against its host, and Maika is thrust into the annals of fate. This story is about more than finding refuge; it’s also about fighting to protect it, and even the demon within her knows, in the coming battle, she will need allies.
Takeda’s artwork is brilliantly haunting as always, her soft lines and colouring technique veils the world in an ethereal glow, even in the darkness. I noted some clever dialogue placement in one panel when the demon speaks to Maika from within her body, and I hope they continue to explore more unconventional ways to portray their unnatural and invasive bond, as it remains the story’s most captivating dynamic.
Verdict: Buy it!
Monstress is one of the best fantasy titles on the shelves right now. It’s especially poignant in these times when it seems our inner demons are consuming our better selves and when we value our refuge over the people who seek it.