Monstress Vol. 6: The Vow by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

Wow, has this series grown on me! As with last year, I selected this title first of the Hugo nominees for Graphic Novel in hopes of getting it out of the way, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually does keep getting better from volume to volume. As always, an overwhelming amount happens with far too little of it explained, but dang it, I care about the characters now! Tuya still sucks, but I’ve come round to rooting for Maika and Zinn and especially dear, darling Kippa.

It helps a lot that this volume opens with a Kippa tale, detailing the gut punch that is her memory of the most delicious meal she’s ever had. The follow-up, Maika’s own memory of the last time she was truly happy and carefree as a child, was also poignant, as Maika and Kippa exchange stories while working in the kitchens of a besieged town. I think the town is Ravenna? Like I said, there is a lot going on in these books, and while I enjoy the story well enough, I do not, however, sufficiently care to keep track of who is betraying whom on whose behalf where and how, because it happens all the damn time in places that are mostly sketched at in a seemingly fungible spacetimeline. But at this point in the story, I’m invested enough that details are a mere curiosity, my subconscious mind doing the connecting work while I’m wholly absorbed in the plot as laid before me in each new book.

And this plot here is a doozy! It’s been six long volumes, but Maika finally discovers the identity of the Baroness, and it all goes about as well as expected. Even more importantly, Maika and Zinn come to a new… oh let’s say accord, as their ends increasingly align. Very interesting snippets are also revealed about the history of this planet and the origin of the Old Gods. It’s all thrilling stuff, beautifully depicted by Sana Takeda in her trademark horror manga style with punctuations of extreme cuteness. The two-page spread where Maika puts the pieces of the mask on again is particularly electrifying, with excellent use, too, of colors and lettering. And! It was easy for me to tell throughout who was who! I can be a bit faceblind, but in this volume I wasn’t constantly mistaking one character for another, tho I think that this book overall was also better about providing contextual hints than prior installments were.

I actually didn’t expect to enjoy The Vow as much as I did, given my lukewarm, if admittedly improving, opinion of preceding books. Definitely don’t start here if you’re new to the series. The first four volumes can be a bit of a slog, but these last two have been worthwhile, and I’m very much looking forward to uncovering the rest of the secrets of this setting. Definitely a great start to my Hugo 2022 Graphic Stories nominee reading!

Monstress Vol. 6: The Vow by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda was published September 21 2021 by Image Comics and is available from all good booksellers, including

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