I do not read many comics anymore. I used to, but in the early 2000s it turned into a very expensive habit – the funnies I used to buy for a pittance at the news-agent’s when I was a kid had become the classy big books I found in a bookstore by my university when I was older, and now they were luxury items sold in specialist bookshops in which guys bickered about whether Evangelion was stronger than Gundam or whatever.
In the end, I decided to keep buying books and drop most of my comics.
But once in a while I still find something interesting – like today’s offer via Amazon, of the digital version of the first issue of Monstress for free.
I can go for that.
Written by Marjorie Liu and drawn by Sana Takeda, and published by Image Comics, Monstress is an ongoing science-fantasy series with a distinctively Oriental feel and some amazing looks.
The first issue that I have read during lunchtime (ah, a comic-book at lunchtime in the summer… just like when I was a kid!) is a classic opening piece giving us a very impressionistic first taste of the setting – matriarchy, cruel experiments, a war going, ancient spirits, magical mutants… – and establishing the main characters and a solid conflict to fuel a lot of action.
And it is certainly a beautiful thing to behold, it raises a lot of questions (that’s what they do to hook you), and ticks all of my boxes as far as setting, premise and characters go.
The storytelling is excellent, the characters intriguing, and there is a cynical talking cat with two tails.
Meaning I have another item on my shopping list.
The series has been ongoing for five years, now, and it has won everything a comic book can win – including five Eisner Awards, four Hugo Awards, and the Harvey Awards Book of the Year in 2018.
Why the heck did I wait so long to check this out?
I think what kept me away was the reviewers comparing the books to “Tolkien and George R.R. Martin” – and yes, I know, I should be in-the-know enough to realize that anything with a secondary world fantasy style would be presented as Tolkien and Martin rolled into one by the press, because they lack the sophistication and don’t know or respect the genre, and are just hacks.
But I was silly, and I did not check out the books.
And come on, any comic book in which the one-armed main character wields a bayonet-fitted brass flame thrower has something in it for me, right?
But anyway – that’s the good thing about books, comic or otherwise: you can always catch up later if you missed them at the start.