A comiXologist (Tia) recommends Monstress #2

Words by Marjorie Liu

Art by Sana Takeda

The monster-sized debut issue of Monstress (66 gorgeous pages!) introduced readers to the brutal and magical world of Maika.  A teenage girl with a psychic link to a formidable monster, Maika is searching for answers about who she is and what this ability means for her identity.

In issue 2, Maika refers to the monster as “the Hunger.”  In a book that seems to embrace word play in its very title (monstress/monstrous), naming her monster the Hunger hails a powerful association with the ultimate sin of femininity.  We just can’t seem to get over that story about Eve eating the apple. (You couldn’t wait until lunch, Eve?  Come on!)  Historically, in the real world, “good” femininity rejects hungers, denies desires, speaks softly, takes up as little space as possible. But in the world of Monstress, magic is the ultimate power, and magic is located in the bodies of creatures called Arcanics, who are traded as slaves among the ruling class of sorceresses who literally consume Arcanic flesh to possess their magic.  Hunger, therefore, is the precedent to power, and one’s agency in such a transaction is shaping up to be a central theme in this book.

Maika fears her Hunger because she feels powerless over it, and I can’t help but think of this as a metaphor many women can identify with.  I look forward to seeing what direction Liu and Takeda take the relationship between Maika and her Hunger.  Operating in what I can only describe as a Miyazaki-esque paradigm (coming from me this is extremely high praise), Liu strikes a satisfying balance of whimsy and gravitas in the writing, and Takeda’s art is resplendent with texture, pattern, and light. I can think of no better team to explore such important themes.

Tia Vasiliou is a Digital Editor at ComiXology.  Her favorite Miyazaki film is Spirited Away. Wait, no.  It’s Howl’s Moving Castle.  No, Nausicaä!  Or maybe Princess Mononoke?  You know what, don’t make her choose…

in honor of the terribleness that is nat’s characterization in aou, here are some wonderful black widow comics for you all to enjoy instead :)

  • black widow (2014) #1-ongoing by nathan edmondson great jumping on point for new readers. during the course of her private missions outside shield, natasha slowly uncovers a shadowy conspiracy. brings in several key figures from her past like clint, matt, and bucky in a way that isn’t overwhelming for those who aren’t familiar with the continuity.
  • black widow: the name of the rose (#1-5) by majorie liu one of natasha’s most popular stories. when someone begins targeting the superhero community and framing her, natasha is forced to face some long buried secrets of her past. if, like most, you were dissatisfied with the way natasha’s infertility was handled in aou, this is a good story for you.
  • black widow: kiss or kill (#6-8) by duane swierczynski an exciting spy- thriller tale.
  • black widow: homecoming (#1-6) by richard k. morgan natasha is drawn out of retirement and forced to face her past head on by traveling back to her homeland. if you’re interested in learning in natasha’s past and her training the red room, this is might be a nice place to start.
  • black widow: the things they say about her (#1-6) by richard k. morgan picking up from where “homecoming” left off, this one is less character study and more straight up espionage action/adventure. trigger warning for depictions of human trafficking.
  • black widow: the itsy-bitsy spider (#1-3) by devin grayson natasha find herself questioning her identity as she faces yelena belova, a new black widow created by the red room, who is determined to prove herself by taking down natasha for good.
  • captain america and the secret avengers #1 by kelly sue deconnick natasha and sharon carter are superspy besties while steve does paperwork.
  • captain america and bucky #624 by ed brubaker part of a series exploring bucky’s past, this issue looks specifically at his and natasha’s relationship during their red room years.
  • captain america (#25-619) by ed brubaker natasha is a key part of bucky’s supporting cast during his time as captain america, often acting as his voice of reason and getting him out of messes. her relationship with bucky, their past in the red room, and friendship with sharon are all explored.
Gillen, Stevenson,Tarr & More Talk Young Superheroes and Teenage Angst in Comics
Gillen, Stevenson,Tarr & More Talk Young Superheroes and Teenage Angst in Comics - Creators behind some of the best young adult comics today gathered at SDCC to discuss the connection fans have to the turbulence of teenage years.

Some pretty good material for people trying to write their own teen superhero stories or just stories about teenagers. My favorite quotes (how I wish I had the acess to entire panel, not just the article)

“When I write teenagers, especially young girls, who are surrounded by danger, they have to rise to the challenge and combat that–and sometimes the danger is from within.”

Majorie Liu and Sana Takeda talk mostly about writing Monstress, but I feel their words put an interesting perspective on the X-23 book they both worked on.

“Everything is of equal importance to a teenager. The world might be ending, and prom is tomorrow, but those things are equal. […]When I write a teenage character, its about the feelings I had as a teenager, but also about hoping someone else out there like me will find it. […] My hope in writing ‘Nimona’ was that some chubby, punky kid in the South could find it, and things could make sense for her. Maybe its hard, and you have a lot of feelings, and you’re mean sometimes, and you’re not perfect or beautiful, and don’t have it together, but you still deserve love.”

Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, Runaways, Lumberjanes)

“Everybody has had a conflict with their parents at some point, everyone has gone through their teen years with conflict between facing peer pressure and what their parents want from them,[…]The real indication we were onto something was people who weren’t Muslim, but grew up Mormon, or in an orthodox Jewish community, but still connected to ['Ms. Marvel’]. The value in these characters is, you don’t know what people are carrying inside of them, you don’t know what about their story is going to strike a chord with people.”

G. Willow Wilson of Ms. Marvel fame.

"Teenagers can change, and that change is necessary.”

Kieron Gillen (Young Avengers, Journey Into Mystery, The Wicked And The Divine)