REVIEW: ‘Monstress: Talk Stories,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Monstress: Talk Stories #1

Monstress: Talk Stories #1 is published by Image Comics, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda, and letters by Rus Wooton. In a brief calm, Kippa takes some time to prepare some food for those who need it. During the prep, she gets drawn into telling a story from the past about the best meal Kippa ever ate, and the people she shared it with.

Love is a complicated thing. Sometimes it can never be taken away. Other times, no matter how hard you try, it will never appear. No matter how much it may pain everyone involved, we don’t get to choose who we love. We can choose to care. We can choose to be empathetic and kind. But love is either there or it isn’t. Love can be cruel like that.

As Kippa tells the tale that forms Monstress: Talk Stories #1, the reader is taken back to when Kippa was younger and living in a refugee camp with her mother, father, and half-sister Perri. Though the set up I’ve just described makes one expect a thoroughly depressing story, it has far more cheer to it than one might expect. Which ultimately makes the tale hurt all the more.

Monstress: Talk Stories #1 opens with Kippa and Perri rushing to Kippa’s mom’s workshop to show her some salvage they have scrounged up. Despite the bleak conditions and burdened expressions of the adults, the children seem unfazed by what transpires around them. A child’s ability to focus on the immediate good, untainted by a larger struggle, is always a wonder to behold.

When they initially reach the shop, Kippa’s mom is thoroughly pleased to see the salvage that’s been brought to her. At least until she finds out Perri is the one who found it. Her enthusiasm instantly sours into scorn for the items. It is here that we learn that Perri is only Kippa’s half-sister. She showed up only a brief time ago and it has clearly been a struggle for Kippa’s mom to accept the child into their lives because she has come from an affair had by her father. Yet, even as the two siblings lay in bed listening to the adults argue over the situation, Kippa promises they will make things right.

The next day Kippa and Perri set out with the intent to make Kippa’s mom love Perri. They plan to do this by acquiring a gift. However, due to their impoverished situation, such a gift requires a bit of guile. Nevertheless, the children manage the task. However, due to poor forethought on the part of the children, they and their parents almost get into big trouble. It is here that Kippa’s mom learns of the two’s plan as well as it’s intended goal. What follows is an emotional moment that is as powerful as it is devastating. When things like love, compassion, and honest truth all get tossed in the pot together, the end result can be a truly painful dish. This is no less true for the one serving these painful truths than the one receiving.

While every emotion in Monstress: Talk Stories #1 is written perfectly by Liu, its delivery is only improved by Takeda’s lovely, soft art. From every gleeful moment of childhood-born innocence to every tear presented hits perfectly. This is due both to Takeda’s lovely linework as well as the perfectly utilized colorwork. The use of light in the colorwork is a particularly striking feature of the art.

There is always a shadiness or haziness associated with the panels. This shade is offset by a brightness that centers around whatever good things are featured within the panels. And more often than not, this brightness focuses on the children. This contrast gives the story a warmth, even within its dour setting.

Lastly, we have Wooton’s letter work. The lettering here is well executed as it guides the reader from panel to panel. And the choice to omit the industry standard black outline on the dialogue boxes helps the boxes blend in more seamlessly with the softer shades utilized in the art.

When all is said and done, I thoroughly loved Monstress: Talk Stories #1. Despite picking this story up on a whim, and never having read anything else from the Monstress world, it provided an endearing and heartfelt tale I’m thoroughly glad I experienced. While not all of its moments are happy, and part of me wishes it had given me a happier version of its final resolution, the heartache crafted into its panels makes the brightness shine all the more potently. Just as I suppose, it does in real life.

Monstress: Talk Stories #1 is available on November 11th wherever comics are sold.

Monstress: Talk Stories #1
5

TL;DR

Despite picking this story up on a whim, and never having read anything else from the Monstress world, it provided an endearing and heartfelt tale I’m thoroughly glad I experienced. While not all of its moments are happy, and part of me wishes it had given me a happier version of its final resolution, the heartache crafted into its panels makes the brightness shine all the more potently. Just as I suppose, it does in real life.