My dad once said to me, "You give a lot of books three stars." I do.
I read this for one of my summer classes. We had to read and annotate 10 comics/graphic novels. Here's the annotation I wrote for that class:
Maika Halfwolf is on a quest to discover information about her shadowy past. Along the way she must battle an ancient entity who shares her mind and body and makes her the target of every faction in her war-torn world.
Monstress: Awakening is the most beautifully illustrated comic book I have ever seen. Every panel is like a painting and so full of detail I could spend minutes taking in each one, yet the art never overwhelms the page or the story. Even the body horror and gore manage to look beautiful. In addition to beautiful art, Monstress contains creative character design and diverse characters. It is refreshing to see a fantasy world populated with resilient, chromatic, female characters whose existence is normalized. These women are the rule not the exception.
Monstress also includes incredible world building. Immediately in the book there is the sense that this is a fully realized world, and there is little awkward exposition to explain it. It is left to readers to put the story together for themselves. Some of the more complex aspects of the world are explained at the ends of chapters in short lectures. The conceit works at conveying information that clarifies the story, but if this information is really that important, it deserves space in the actual comic rather than being relegated to a clever info dump.
Monstress is a fresh take on fantasy worlds. It deserves a spot in the graphic novel canon for its artwork alone.