By Zack Quaintance — Check out some of these quotes without context that I took from Monstress #22: Calm yourself, short-lived being. .... There was a war. There is always a war. War is the deadliest child of the living… …As the poets say, victory is a pair of twins named boldness and caution. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point—I doubt I will soon read a comic with better writing than this one. Marjorie Liu is one of the industry’s best, from her long-form plotting to how she uses simple turns of phrase like those above.
In this issue, she’s also starting the process of paying off so much of her long-term plotting from earlier issues. We get plotlines speeding head for not only our protagonist, but also one of the most earnest and adorable side characters in all of comics, Kippa the little fox girl. It’s the type of splintered and interesting issue only possible in a long-form serialized medium. Couple with the previous chapter, this is all adding up to an arc that is among the most interesting stretch of one of my two favorite comics on the stands today (the other being Saga). Liu has played the long game with this comic while doling out heavy ideas, pristine prose, and a gold coin trail of heaving dramatic flourishes. Issues like this one seem to indicate that she also has no intention of slowing down. In other words, this is just a damn fine comic.
In my Monstress #21 review, I wrote about how last issue built action while simultaneously throwing in a gauntlet of new designs that would be among the single best of any other comic. This issue is less about laying track for the big war that took center stage last issue, and more about giving all that has come before depth, be it Kippa’s role in all of this, the nature of the god-like monsters that have infiltrated the world, or even the continued powers of the mask shards that have been part of this story since its fiery opening chapter. The suspense is taught from the war council taking place around us, while the characters have well-realized and dramatic interactions that reveal much about the fantasy world. It’s a rare series that can do 22-straight interesting stories and still have world-building left to do, but Monstress is certainly that.
Anyway, let me wrap up now by once again praising Sana Takeda’s artwork. Last issue was a clinic in character design, this one is more about monsters and settings, with Kippa’s experience defying Monstress’ usual color palette in bright and interesting ways, while the Doctor’s inner sanctum is yet another hall of fame setting put forth by Takeda. Basically, this book continues to be one of the most dynamic and richest stories on the stands. I feel lucky to experience it in real time.
Overall: Monstress #22 continues this book’s best arc yet, which is saying a lot. Simply put, this is one of the best comics on the stands and an all-time classic, and issues like this that read so beautifully while pushing ahead the plot are the reason why. 9.8/10
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.