Monstress is a five-time Eisner Award-winning comic book series from Image Comics. To describe it in just a few words would be a disservice to the series, as Monstress is a beautiful accumulation of so many things. Realizing that this is an oversimplification, I would describe Monstress as a high-concept, steampunk, fantasy epic anime pretending to be a comic book.
If that sounds crazy, that’s because it very much is, but it’s also one of the greatest comics of our generation.
Issue #27 just hit shelves, and while it may not be peak Monstress, it’s a solid read that continues to flesh out our characters, their relationships and the incredible world that they inhabit. If you haven’t read the first 26 issues, I highly recommend you do so before jumping in.
The world of Monstress is as grandiose and expansive as Middle Earth or Westeros and just as complicated – possibly even more so. Monstress is a fantastic example of long-form storytelling within the comic book medium, although it does sacrifice accessibility in order to achieve its brilliance.
In other words, if you’re reading Monstress, keep reading. How could you not? This issue is of approximately the same caliber as every glorious prior issue, even if it’s not the most revolutionary. Issue #27 picks up threads from the previous issue and continues those stories in a genuine, surprising, and uniquely Monstress fashion. If you are unfamiliar with the series, there’s no time like the present, but I implore you to start from the beginning. You’re only 800 pages or so behind.
Spoilers for Monstress #27 ahead! Read at your own risk!
A Powerful Story About The Horrors Of War and Racism
As always, this issue of Monstress is immaculately and meticulously crafted, in terms of both story and art design. For example, the story opens and ends with children at the forefront of war, which ups the stakes and the emotional impact. If you want to put a reader on the edge of their seat, put a child on the front lines of a vicious war. This framing device draws you in and immediately presents you with dire stakes, and 30 pages later, it leaves you fearing for the life of Kippa, driving home the message that children are not excused from the horrors of war and racism.
Monstress presents racism as a deadly disease that brings war, destruction and death to us all, and some issues put that message on display more than others. Issue #27 sees Corvin’s sister deliver a powerful message about the innate hypocrisy and sick irony of racism:
“We’re already enslaved to this insanity. Humans hate Arcanics, Arcanics hate humans…and all of them are hypocrites….But no one talks about that. No one talks about how much we want and need each other. How we’re already a part of each other.”
Now while this issue is packed full of emotion, darkness, and really depressing subject matter, it’s actually one of the more uplifting issues of the series. The war between the Federation of Man and the Arcanics has reignited, and great bloodshed is imminent. The Arcanics are preparing for the onslaught, and though tensions are high and danger is just around the corner, there is a sense of unity and togetherness in the air that is rarely seen in this world of secrets, mysteries and betrayal.
Monstress Knows How To Balance Stakes With Smiles
Another aspect of Issue #27 that makes wartime a bit more lively and joyous is the embracement of uniquely Monstress tropes and phrases. “To quote the poets” is said more times than I can count here, and that always makes me smile.
Sure, the quotes that follow are dark, somber and relatively upsetting more often than not, but the setup does a lot to lessen the blow. Those poor poets, always lumped in together, never receiving individual credit and rarely being quoted for actual poetry.
Even the violence and gore contain a touch of levity within them. The Arcanics make a Cronenberg-esque monster out of some Federation soldiers, and sow a note signed “Your Future Demon Overlords” to its mouth before sending it back to camp. The extreme sarcasm juxtaposed with the horrific abomination had me grinning from ear to ear.
Later in the issue, immediately before consuming a small army of racist Federation soldiers, Maika/Zinn tells one individual that (and this is a direct quote) “Your face will look good in my teeth. Run.” Venom wishes he could sound like that.
Monstress is a series that has mastered the art of making the tone of horrific violence bend to its whim. When the battles and the blood and the beastly transformations need to be scary, they are horrifying. When they need to be anime slugfests that deliver spectacle as opposed to screams, well Monstress has that down pat too.
The one thing that this issue of Monstress excels at above all else is its seamless setup of future conflict and developments. The final panel shows Kippa, bloody and about to be engulfed by flames. Our beloved Fox friend very well may die in issue #28, but only time will tell. I believe that his story has not run its course yet, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if he perished.
Following the last panel, we get a look at the beautiful cover of Issue #28, depicting Tuya and Maika in close combat. The series has been building to their reunion for a long time, and the promise of seeing that confrontation finally play out is extremely exciting.
The latest issue of Monstress is a bit of a slowburn relative to the rest of the high octane series, but it’s still paced quite well. The action is brief but savage and wholly satisfying. One panel featured nothing but dismembered body parts and blood, and it brought to mind memories of the Hellsing Ultimate anime.
The violence is really an accent here however, as this is a story that spends time building it’s world, setting up future conflict, and developing its unforgettable characters. This was a great cog in a powerful engine that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. If you’re not reading Monstress, you’re missing out on a fantasy epic that is unrivaled in the modern era of comics.
To quote the poets, “What did you think of Issue #27? Will Kippa survive the Federation’s attack on Ravenna? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media!”