Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.
In pursuit of Kippa’s kidnappers, Maika and Corvin witness the paranoia, madness, and destruction resulting from the awakened Old God. They are forced to defend themselves and reevaluate their judgments of each other and themselves in light of their discoveries. Maika, however, is captured by an Arcanic claiming to be her father, who also shows her the enormous undertaking to which he’s dedicated himself: The Blood Court. He has created a clandestine army and political faction waiting to take advantage of what he insists will be another inevitable war between humans and Arcanics, and he’ll fill the vacuum of leadership with his Blood Court. He also hints at his intentions of turning the Old Gods into a new power source, consuming the beings with the most voracious appetite in a gambit to jump-start a social and technological revolution.
Kippa, meanwhile, proves she’s learned from Maika and sets about rescuing herself, escaping her captors and journeying to reunite with Maika, whom she believes stands the best chance of preventing the spread of violence. On the way, she encounters an ancient, star-faring Dracul who provides perspective on the world, it’s inhabitants, and the other creatures, such as the Old Gods, that have come to it from distant stars. All this knowledge only strengthens Kippa’s resolve to find a way to prevent a war that could destroy the only place left for all these beings to call home.
Tuya also makes her play to gain real political power inside the Dawn Court. She intends to use her authority to strike a peace treaty with the humans. Following a devastating eruption at the Holy City of Aurum—an event for which each side blames the other—Tuya realizes she’ll have to act fast if she wants to prevent the war that will doom everyone involved.
To Serve Man, or Not
Following different groups of characters works out remarkably well. Whenever one set it stopped, another is traveling toward some destination. The characters are also constantly learning some new bit of information about themselves, other characters, or the setting. It never feels like there is any wasted space, and there is a constant sense of forward momentum to the story. The volume maintains a kinetic feeling even if not much appears to happen. The only significant downside to this is how the last ten pages or so happen at a breakneck pace, and it can be difficult to understand what happened, why, and the range of consequences because of it.
Maika’s meeting with her father and his revelation of the Blood Court make for fascinating challenges to Maika’s character. She is being tempted with approximations of things she clearly wants: family, security, answers, and a means to be made physically and perhaps psychologically whole. Her struggle against this situation—one in which she cannot get out of with hardheaded violence and snarkiness—makes her question what it is she really wants and the price she’ll pay to get it. Joining her father and his appetites requires more than her knee-jerk attempts to push away everyone and everything. Kippa, too, shows how far her character has come with her escape attempt and dedication to her own goals rather than following someone’s lead.
Perhaps more so than the last few volumes, these issues return to the exploration of consumption and predation. Maika’s father represents an interesting thematic current in that he embraces his position as someone who devours and intends to subvert the endless depredation of the Old Gods by essentially consuming them as a power source. There is, of course, always the cost to consider. Maika, who manages to be on both sides of the predator-prey equation, has a unique perspective in that she sees what happens to those who are devoured and those who devour. Her calls to put a stop to the current violence, because she fears it’s playing into the hands of the Old Gods, go largely unheeded.
The Empress Against the Abyss
As always, the art is rich and detailed with plenty of fantastic character designs. The impressive work always provides a sense of the fantastic and that there is a level of elaborate artistry in the world. There are also unique effects when Kippa sees things that no one else can see, which reinforces the conflicting belief between her parents that an Ancient either blessed or cursed her (7). In any event, the series continues to hint that Kippa isn’t so much Maika’s sidekick as she is a protagonist coming into her own.
Every volume of Monstress is excellent, and this one is no exception. It’s worth a reader’s time to start with volume one and work up to this point, and for however long Liu and Takeda can keep it going.
Liu, Majorie; Takeda, Sana. Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen. Image, 2019.
© 2019 Seth Tomko