I can finish a comic in about fifteen minutes, thirty if it's dense with exposition. With 'Montress' #3 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, I took a good hour reading it, admiring the intricate artwork, and re-reading certain sections. It is something to behold for all its complex world-building and elaborate illustrations. The manga influence is unmistakable but the baroque settings, ornate and delicate, take fantasy to whole new levels.
I'd usually start the review discussing the writer's choices concerning the plot but there's no denying the integral artwork of Takeda. The delicate lines, the perfectly symmetrical shapes that make up the art-deco motif and inventive character designs indulge the eyes with extravagant precision. You have to admire to what lengths Takeda will go to convey Liu's vision. Every tentacle that emerges from Maika's stumpy arm is accounted for and each given the same amount of detail whether it's in the foreground or the background. We really should be paying at least twice as much for this level of artistry.
Endangered by the appearance of an Inquisitrix, Maika unleashes the darkness that lurks within and gave into her "hunger." Dispatching of her would-be captor in a horrific way and developing her story even further. It doesn't make poor little Kippa feel any better but the fact that Maika addresses her fears is an unexpected but thoughtful response.
Meanwhile, Yvette and the Holy Mother discuss their next move as Maika gets further and further away from them. She has a piece of the mask and with it rests much power. A power the Holy Mother must have. Liu has demonstrated the darkness of this world lies in its characters. Some have a lightness to them but most have a dark side. The violence in the issue is unflinching and brutal. A sometimes jaw-dropping display of callous savagery that not even Maika can escape. Liu is fearless in demonstrating just how dangerous this fantasy world is and that sense of anxiety you feel for Maika being discovered by soldiers is real and tangible.
'Monstress' is an epic fantasy in every sense of the genre. It's thick with mythology and complexity. It's a story that's still developing and illustrated with more audacity than we deserve. Issue three revealed some important details while making your heart race. Liu and Takeda are simply magnificent.