Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letters: Rus Wooton
Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers
Monstress is back. And Issue #36 delivers something of a rarity for the series–an issue almost bereft of our hardened, unpredictable protagonist Maika Halfwolf. Instead, we spend the plus-sized story exploring how various parties react to Tuya’s cruel deception to end #35.
The issue seems to acknowledge the break between arcs, welcoming readers back with a ferocious, tear-streaked Kippa confidently declaring: “Wake her up or I’ll kill you! I’LL KILL YOU!” as she brandishes a gleaming blade at the Baroness of the Last Dusk. Tuya, who 35 issues ago appeared as but a cute, peaceable ex-gf, is not phased. She claims Maika has fallen ill, though she puts no effort into the pretense. Tuya has positioned herself to have virtual political invulnerability in the situation. And if all else fails, she discloses her willingness and readiness to die for the court.
Tuya then sets to work on influencing Lord Corvin and ensuring the safe passage of her precious cargo, but Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda know better than to draw out Maika’s magic poison coma for multiple issues. While Tuya, Corvin, and Maika’s father busy themselves with the outset of the next great war between humans and Arcanics, Kippa gets help from an unexpected source. Of course, Yvette offers less of a helping hand, more a gruesome death for one of the Halfwolf’s doctors, one that jolts Maika deep in her subconscious.
It’s impossible to discuss Monstress without fawning over Takeda’s brilliant art. But it should be stressed how Takeda’s work constantly serves Liu’s story–plot developments, atmosphere, and most of all, the emotion. This is abundantly clear during the latter pages of Monstress #36, when the hyper-detailed world and organic color palette fades to utter black. We get nothing but a single white word on the first page of darkness: “Tuya.” And immediately we know, our girl is back. We also know Maika is at her most dangerous when she has nothing left of herself.
“Tuya. I know why. But, still…? Why pretend you cared? Why let me hope? I lost hope, Tuya. Do you understand? I had no nope. None. And then I found it again. I found my hope.”
As Maika soliloquizes deep within the abyss of herself, we see ethereal light, a withered hand clawing through the dark, reaching–
“And I gave it to you–just for a moment. But you…used it against me. The only true gift I could give you. I used to think that nothing could hurt as much as the war. Or the hunger.”
In images reminiscent of the very first page of Monstress #1, we see Maika at her absolute most vulnerable. Nude, badly wounded, inconsolable, wailing in silent pain. But defeated? Never. Maika is a complex character, but one perhaps best defined by the trait of defiance. She has defied foretold destinies and prophecies countless times. Needlessly defiant, at times? Sure. But her penchant for resistance is one of the reasons Kippa and Yvette refuse to believe a wolf could be put down so easily.
“Well, fuck you. You thought I’d be gone for good? You thought you’d escape so easily? Well, you got it wrong.”
In an instance of rebirth, Maika emerges from the nothing, gasping for breath. One of several battles raging inside herself has been quelled, just in time for our hero to rejoin the greater war. Though, in terms of her immediate objectives, it’s clear Maika will continue to let her defiance guide her:
“You should have taken what I offered, Tuya. Because next time, what I bring won’t be hope.”
If you find yourself on team Tuya, you better hope “next time” isn’t #37, because I know exactly what Maika intends to bring her former love: spectacular death.
The war has begun. Tuya seems to have everything under control. But wolves don't die easy.