I really am just throwing this up on the blog whilst running past – there’s a lot going on IRL right now that’s totally cutting into my bloggy time. As a result I haven’t been able to keep up with blog post reading or commenting either, for which I am truly sorry. I think I’m just going to have make a clean break and start again when this busy spot is done with. The guilt and dread I’m feeling over the ever-increasing stack of unread posts in my saved list isn’t helping right now. I can only apologise once again. I hope you’re all keeping well and reading awesome books.
I only seem to manage one volume of Monstress a year. In my post about part two, The Blood, I talked about how intense the story is, and I think that’s a big reason for this. Liu and Takeda are creating a visually and narratively dense tale that benefits from a little time for digestion between episodes.
Anyhow, in this volume Maika Halfwolf, Kippa and Master Ren arrive in Pontus, a city that has in the past been a haven for those wishing to avoid conflict. Refugees are again pouring into the city as the world gears up for war, but the Pontus Shield, an old piece of technology that enabled the city to remain neutral, is powered down and only someone with the Shaman-Empress’ blood can activate it. And so Maika finds herself bound up in yet another fragile alliance.
Meanwhile, Kippa, always a force for good, becomes involved in helping scout for safe routes out of Pontus via the mountains in case the Shield cannot be reactivated. Having grown up in a refugee camp herself, she wants now to work to help the vulnerable people she sees caught in the maelstrom between powerful forces. As a character who has been swept up in Maika’s drama since the beginning, I feel like we’re now seeing Kippa’s first steps towards independence and a desire to take some control over what happens in her own life. It’s a welcome sight. Kippa is still undoubtedly the most adorable thing in these comics, but she’s got some steel running through her too.
Something she’ll have need of very soon, I think. Not only is war swiftly approaching, but it appears that Master Ren’s superiors want Kippa for something. So far there is no clue as to what, but Ren is clearly torn by the order to deliver Kippa up to his floofy-but-keen-on-decapitation boss. I was genuinely moved by Ren’s reaction to Kippa’s calling him her family, and that his last word in this volume is “family” too, when he’s found bloody and battered and Kippa gone, underlines his increasingly conflicted position.
But then internal conflict is something of a theme by now in this series and Maika and Zinn’s peculiar alliance is the biggest, brightest example of that. In this latest installment Zinn now appears to be ‘fully grown’, standing in humanoid form at Maika’s side although still irrevocably linked to her body. Their relationship has taken on a new dimension too. They almost … banter … with one another on occasion and appear to be working together with less friction than previously. It may prove short-lived, but it’s interesting to see a less antagonistic dynamic between the two. There is also the first suggestion that Zinn may not remember everything about his time with the Shaman-Empress, his beloved. When he learns (from what we can assume to be a reliable witness) that he may have betrayed the Shaman-Empress, he’s shocked, but for the reader it begs the question: if he doesn’t remember doing that, then what else does he not remember? And what will the cost be later on?
I remain as fascinated as ever to see where the story will go next and, as always, I feel the need to share some of my favourite moments from this volume, in my usual, possibly quite irritating, montage stylie. Here we go: The Border Warden drops an f-bomb! Master Ren’s call-sign! The Ubasti Coffee sign! Corvin, Maika and a slice of cake with cherries on top! Gull’s floofy little lapdog! Reserving terror “for only the most special of occasions”! Marriage negotiations?! The Shaman-Empress’ laboratory! “All are welcome”! The Thyrians attack! How to successfully remove a mask from one’s enemy’s face! A rift in the sky! Together … maybe …!!
And I’m left with only two questions this time. Two huge, burning questions:
Where’s Kippa been taken and why?
And what the heck did she mean: “the mask is also a mother”???