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This is one of the less elaborate covers.

"There's more hunger in the world than love."

"Yes. Miss Halfwolf scares me a lot. But that doesn’t make her a monster. Don’t be like the witches, Master Ren. They call us monsters because it makes it easier to hurt us. But monsters are people, too."
Kippa
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Monstress is an ongoing fantasy comic series created by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda, published by Image Comics since 2015. Winner of five Eisner Awards in 2018.

Set in a fantasy world modelled after 1900s Asia with magical, steampunk, and Ancient Egyptian elements, the time is during a truce between the Federation of Man (humans) and the Arcanic Empire (hybrid offspring of the beastlike Ancients and humans). But thanks to an order of human witch-nuns called the Cumaea, who rule the Federation of Man with manipulation, propaganda, threats, torture, coercion, and a well-placed murder here and there, open conflict increasingly seems inevitable.

Both sides commit atrocities regularly. The humans take Arcanic slaves. The Cumaea go even further and use Arcanic body parts to make a magical potion called Lilium that can be used to do everything from powering lighting systems to bringing back the dead. The Arcanics, meanwhile, brutally murder any humans who enter their lands, even by accident, and oppress their own lower classes.

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Enter The Protagonist, an Arcanic teen named Maika Halfwolf. The only daughter of the formidable Moriko Halfwolf — known, respected and feared by both the Cumaea and the Arcanics — Maika grew up a starving, degraded slave in human territory. Eventually Maika escaped, maturing into a strong, badass young woman driven by rage at the humans who enslaved her, the Arcanics who abandoned her... pretty much everyone, really.

Maika also possesses a deadly secret: Living in her body, underneath her skin, is a Monstrum.

Known as the "Old Gods", Monstra are Exactly What It Says on the Tin: terrible monsters, older than even the Ancients, long ago banished to the outer universe by the goddess Ubasti and her children, the sapient, wise but usually eccentric and poetry-crazed cats. Now though, one is living inside her... and it is hungry.

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Joining Maika as she searches for answers about her dead mother and her secrets, as well as the ancient Starfish Alien god inside her body, is an eclectic and often strange Ragtag Band of Misfits. There's Kippa, a young fox girl who is still very much a child despite having definitely seen some horrors in her life; Master Ren, The Philosopher Eccentric Mentor cat with two tails, questionable motives, and impossible knowledge; and a few extras who either help or hinder but are lucky to survive in either case.

A lot of powerful forces are trying to use Maika as a tool for their own goals, including Arcanic political factions, the Cumaea, the Monstra within her, and more.

But Maika has no wish to be anyone's pawn.

Has a Characters Sheet that Needs Wiki Magic Love.


Tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: When Maika finds a group of soldiers cut to neat little pieces, she recognizes that the wounds were made with a weapon called a nightcutter. Since the nightcutter is only used by the Dusk Court, Maika knows that they're getting involved.
  • The Ace: The Shaman-Empress was far and away the most powerful Arcanic ever. She was also a scientist of the highest calibre and developed technology and magic that Lady Yvette claims "...makes anything we have currently look like the Dark Ages." Unfortunately, the Shaman-Empress took everything with her to the grave and this led to adventurers of all stripes looking for her tomb, among the would-be tomb raiders was a party that included Lady Yvette and Moriko Halfwolf.
  • Affably Evil: Mistress Ilsa. A slave dealer whose specialty is Arcanic children, she is pretty unquestionably a villain. However, she isn't terrible about it. She lies to the children about their fate at the Cumaea compound (though that might have been to keep them from struggling), she offers Maika her cigarette in a small act of simple kindness, and when Maika is unchained and led into the compound, she wishes her well and asks her to send her best to her daughter, who apparently she doubts she'll ever see again.
  • All There in the Manual: Professor Tam Tam's lecture notes at the end of most issues detail historical and cultural aspects of the setting that aren't fully fleshed out in the story proper.
  • Alliance with an Abomination: Maika and Zinn have an uneasy relationship, but are working together because everyone else wants to either use or kill them.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl:
    • Barring the typical pale skin, Maika fits all the other traits.
    • Lady Sophia also had the arrogant disdain of other people and Dragon Lady good looks, but this all changes after getting torched and now she just looks melted.
  • Alternate Identity Amnesia: The first time the Monstra takes over Maika, she has no memory of eating a child, and finds out from a terrified Kippa after waking up in the back of Emilia's wagon. To be fair, the Monstrum is implied to have been mostly unconscious at the time as well. Later "attacks" are conscious for both parties.
  • Altar Diplomacy: The Baroness of the Last Dusk arranges to marry the Sword of the East (Maika's aunt) on the grounds that she doesn't trust her further than she can throw her and she needs an actual guarantee to secure the alliance between Dusk and Dawn courts.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted. No matter how evil a race or order seem to be, an exception is always revealed. Emilia is a human who risks her life to help Maika and Kippa get back to Arcanic territory, Lady Atena is a kind Cumaea member, the Monkey King appears so far to be an unselfish Ancient, and Rezak is one of two characters so far introduced aligned entirely with Good, defying the trope of the brutal Arcanic. Even the Monstra isn't so bad.
  • Angst Nuke: Well, "Angst Monstra Release", but when Maika gets angry (more angry than usual, anyway), the Monstrum tends to act up.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Lilium. It's magical, can do practically anything including augment human psionics, and is made from the bodies of Arcanics (or Ancients, if the Cumaea are lucky enough to catch and kill one).
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The Arcanics overwhelmingly prefer using swords, spears and bows in a steampunk world (though some do carry steampunk guns). Could be justified as some of these archaic weapons are magical and a number of the Arcanics are primitive. The Cumaea witches also favour using knives, swords and other archaic weapons.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Arcanics are organized in a very hierarchical society, and the lower classes are heavily discriminated against — it's even stated that the higher-ups don't much care about "peasants" who are captured by the Cumaea, except to the degree that it makes the witch-nuns stronger by their Lilium.
  • An Arm and a Leg: One of the comic's most consistent themes:
    • Maika is missing her left forearm when introduced, neatly amputated at the elbow. Revenge for her missing arm is explicitly stated as one trigger for her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. She later loses the rest of that arm all the way to the shoulder.
    • The Cumaea make Lilium from the bones of Arcanics by harvesting their limbs a little bit at a time to minimize waste, which means their cells are full of dismembered Arcanic prisoners.
    • Maika rips an arm off Inquisitrix Flay and mooks just end up in pieces more often than not.
    • Maika later lampshades her second amputation with "There won't be anything left of me if I keep paying what it takes to survive."
  • Artificial Limbs:
    • Maika is shown wearing a magitek wooden arm in flashbacks, though she apparently left it behind when she reentered human territory. In Issue #21, her father gives her a new high-tech mechanical replacement.
    • Such mechanical limbs are actually quite common, it seems, as both humans and Arcanics are seen with them.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: At the siege of Ravenna, Maika takes command of the defending forces by killing any soldiers who disagree with her.
  • Badass Bookworm: Several of the Cumaea scientists, notably Lady Atena and Lady Sophia.
  • Badass Family: The Half-Wolf family of Moriko, Maika, the Sword of the East and the Queen of the Wolves.
  • Badass Gay:
    • As it turns out, Maika and Tuya were more than just best friends...
    • The genius Cumaea scientist Lady Sophia kisses her partner Atena.
    • Though it's a political marriage, the Sword of the East is willing to marry the Baroness of the Dusk Court and she bothers to consummate the marriage.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The stereotype of the Arcanics. So far, except for the royal courts, much of Arcanic society seems to be based off of Central Asian tribes, so you could make a case that it's partially true.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: The very first panel is Maika being sold as a slave. She's completely naked, with a collar around her neck and the slavemaster's whip threateningly lifting her chin up, but her nipples are either noticeably absent or small enough to be concealed by some fairly scanty Godiva Hair. Whether that's the art, the audience, or an actual lack of Secondary Sexual Characteristics is not clear. Averted in the scene with the Arcanic female sumo wrestlers fighting in the tent.
  • Barefoot Captives: Arcanic slaves of the Federation of Man are kept barefoot. Also a case of Barefoot Poverty.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: According to Professor Tam Tam, Zamora used to be this — a trading post between the Federation of Man and the Arcanic Empire, where all sorts of oddities and valuables, including stories and friendships, were exchanged. It's now a no-man's-land city on the edge of the truce lands, whose inhabitants are tough from constant war and always prepared for an attack from either the Cumaea or the Arcanics.
  • Big Bad Friend:
    • Tuya, the person Maika loves most in the world, is directing the Dusk Court's efforts to capture and kill her.
    • Ren is spying on Maika for his superiors, who know more about the Monstra than they're letting on. When they decide to abduct Kippa for some reason, however, he turns on them.
  • Blatant Lies: The Cumaean Mother Superior does not allow truth to stand in her way. "Flay (the Inquisitrix) succumbed... I can only surmise her death was a delayed reaction from exposure to demonic, infernal energies."
  • Blessed with Suck: The Old Gods drain life-force at a touch, and this can't be turned off.
  • Blood Oath: Arcanic weddings involve having the participants cutting themselves and bleeding into a cup, mixing both samples, and then each taking a drink from it, symbolically becoming one.
  • Bluebird of Happiness: A small songbird briefly lands on the Cumaean Mother Superior's finger before she ruthlessly crushes it.
  • Body Horror: Maika has a monster-god living inside her body, which usually shows itself in the form of tentacles bursting out of the stump of her severed arm. The Mother Superior is possessed by another monster-god and she has three enormous eyes that she hides under her mask.
  • Brown Note: The opening of a breach to the Monstra's realm, such as happened at Constantine in the backstory and Pontus in Issue #18 drives Arcanics who witness it insane.
  • Brutal Honesty: The Sword of the East will not hesitate to tell her Ancient superiors like the Queen of Wolves that they've grown feeble to the point of almost being mortal, and that the only way the Ancients survived this long is through thousands of their hybrid children being used as cannon fodder.
  • Bullying a Dragon: An octopus Arcanic pirate insults Maika by suggesting she's really human, so she rips off one of his tentacles with her bare hand.
  • Burn the Witch!: As a way to anger her, Maika tells Lady Sophia that the devastation of Constantine happened when the Arcanics burnt five witches at the stake. While what happened in Constantine was caused by something else, there may be some truth to Arcanics burning witches, because Sophia took the bait.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Maika thought that giving the Monstrum its true name would allow her to use it at no cost. She was wrong. Controlling the Monstrum exacts a price. Each time Maika takes control, her flesh and bone are consumed by it. Using it twice meant losing everything up to her elbow and then her whole arm.
  • Children Forced to Kill: Several Arcanic children, including Maika herself (who is only 17 when the series starts, and much younger in often-violent flashbacks) have to kill to survive throughout the series.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Border Warden of Pontus when telling off the Blood Queens.
    You are in violation of the First Treaty of Fair Waters, Stipulation 5, Section 2. Specifically, and I quote: "Do not cross the fucking border without the fucking permission of the fucking Pontus government." Which you do not fucking have.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: In the third issue, Kippa draws attention away from the friendly human woman Emilia just before the Cumaea can kill her baby for harboring Arcanics. Master Ren draws attention away from Kippa, but the Cumaea surround them both. Kippa is backed up against a tree, surrounded by Cumaea mooks. She fights back, but is no match for them. Then suddenly, one of the Cumaea's unicorn steeds comes running at them, bleeding, in pain, and frenzied, and it soon becomes clear that someone tore off its horn. Cue the Cumaea Elite Mook being gored through the neck by the horn Maika ripped from the unicorn's forehead and threw like a javelin.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The Cumaea novices, who complain about the ickiness of processing vivisected and dismembered children in their lab classes but express no moral qualms about it.
  • The Conspiracy: The Cumaea leadership who are all possessed by Monstra are seeking to take over the Federation and start an unprovoked war with the Arcanics.
  • Cool Airship: The gigantic Zeppelin.
  • Corrupt Church: What the Cumaea have become; they were originally just an insignificant religious organization that worshipped Marium, the psychic scientist who discovered Lilium and developed the applications for it. Professor Tam Tam claims that, if she were alive today, the science-oriented Marium would scoff at the Cumaea.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The different societies in this world are mostly based off of the writers' Asian roots, but while many elements of our Asia are obvious, different Asian and a few Western cultures have been thrown together to create each society.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Moriko once strangled Maika with a scarf; the reason was to teach her how to kill in preparation for the hard life she would be forced to endure.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: According to Professor Tam Tam's lectures, Marium, the witch and scientist who inspired the Cumaea, would have disdained being treated as a religious figure as she is now. Nevertheless, her name was Marium, she was from a region named Galilea, and she had thirteen apostles who founded the Cumaea after her death. Does This Remind You of Anything?
  • Dark Fantasy: Marjorie Liu used elements of events that happened to her paternal grandparents in WWII China and mixed it in with Asian fantasy along with a touch of Cosmic Horror and steampunk to create this dark fantasy tale. Sana Takeda's visuals reinforce the impression.
  • Deadly Doctor: The people whom Master Ren reports to have an agent known only as "the Doctor", who is apparently an interrogation expert and The Dreaded among the other agents. In actuality, the Doctor isn't an agent but their leader — Maika's father.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Master Ren qualifies as this. Maika also has her moments.
  • Decadent Court: The vast majority of the Ancients — and quite a few of the Arcanic nobility — form this.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best/Parental Abandonment: We don't yet know what happened to Maika's formidable mother, but she only appears in a vision, and Maika and all of her enemies assume she's dead.
  • Defector from Decadence: A villainous version of this. Lady Sophia and her mother, Lady Yvette, were actually renegades from the Cumaea. The Cumaea had forgotten their scientific roots and became almost purely religious, so Sophia and Yvette struck out on their own to do their own research into Lilium, the Old Gods and the mask.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Maika and Zinn combine the power of two of the mask fragments to utterly obliterate a Monstrum that's entering reality through a dimensional tear over Pontus.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: The Monstra inside Maika appears to have been once in a relationship with an Arcanic. It later turns out that the Arcanic was the Shaman-Empress and that the Halfwolf line descends from her.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: Key to the Myth Arc is a mask, split into five scattered pieces. Wearing any of the pieces allows for the wearer to commune with the Monstra sealed outside reality and either unleash or kill them.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Most humans. Even the ones who aren't actively against magical beings such as the Arcanics are wary around them.
  • Dramatic Irony: The readers are let in on Tuya's status as a baroness of the Dusk Court relatively early, something that Maika is currently unaware of.
  • Draw Aggro: Little Kippa, of all people, does this when she realizes that the Cumaea are threatening to kill Emilia's baby. She breaks off a thorny branch and beats the Cumaea's horses (unicorns, actually) so that they run and the Cumaea have to run after them. Master Ren does it later in the same scene, attacking a Cumaea mook to give Kippa time to run as the Cumaea come back.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Old Gods are a race of giant, many-eyed, dark-skinned monstrous beings who are exiled from another dimension. They all drain life-force at a touch and have great supernatural power even in death. The one god that died, an island spontaneously formed from his/her bones as did undead guardians to defend it.
  • Electric Torture: Prisoners are electrocuted via the chain around their neck.
  • Emotion Suppression: To deal with her life, Maika appears to experience no emotions besides hunger and rage. It's unclear — even to her — whether her other emotions are gone or just suppressed.
  • Enemy Mine: Moriko Halfwolf, an Arcanic aristocrat, was more than willing to join forces with Cumaean researcher Lady Yvette, the Mother Superior to look for the Shaman-Empress' tomb. It helped that hostilities between the races were lower then. Then all bets were off when they found the mask, instead of the tomb.
  • Enemy Within: Maika's Monstrum, Zinn. Apparently it's been inside the bodies of her ancestors from her father all the way back to the Shaman-Empress, but it was sleeping until now.
  • Enforced Cold War: Ever since the event at Constantine, which saw 146,000 Arcanics and humans killed in a single blast, both sides have established a hostile peace with each other. The Human Federation lost almost all of its Cumaean witches in the blast, leaving only novices and a small number of elite. Without the Cumaeans, the Federation fear Arcanics would steamroll them. Meanwhile, the Arcanics are trying to build up their forces and discover the cause of the blast. The Sword of the East fears that the humans still have the means to dominate the battlefield, while the Ancients and noble court have grown too indolent to adequately wage a war. And then Maika destroys the peace treaty with her destruction of a Cumaean compound...
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Maika is a vindictive pragmatist who has no problem mutilating or killing people to get her way, but she won't hurt children. Also, having once nearly been lynched by a mob for being Arcanic, she states she wouldn't wish such a fate on anyone, even humans.
    • Yafaela, one of the bounty hunters sent to abduct Kippa, states that while she's low, she hates slavery.
  • Evil Slinks: Some of the Cumaea move with disturbing elegance.
  • Evil Uncle: The Sword of the East is this to Maika, even before she knew she had a niece. Before her death, Moriko warns Maika never to trust or go to the Sword of the East for help.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Tanno, the badass cat general introduced in Issue #5, has an eyepatch.
  • Eye Scream:
    • A poked out eye in Issue #6.
    • Issue #19 reveals that Corvin wears a half-mask because the left side of his face, including that eye, were destroyed at Constantine.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: The Monstra. It seems to be a characteristic of their species.
  • Facial Horror: When forcibly removing the two mask fragments that Gull is wearing, Maika tears her entire face off in the process.
  • Family of Choice: Maika, Kippa, and Master Ren are starting to develop into this, though in the dark subversion-heavy setting, it's unclear how they will turn out.
  • Family Man: Seizi Imura, Maika's goddessfather, is a brutal former pirate and rules his trade empire with an iron fist. His love for Maika and his brother is his sole redeeming feature — he wants Maika to inherit his empire one day, when she's done rampaging.
  • False Flag Operation: At the end of Issue #24, the Lord Doctor destroys the holy city of Aurum with an infernal energy bomb. The Federation naturally blames the Arcanics for this, destroying the fragile peace and kickstarting the long-looming war.
  • Famous Ancestor:
    • Moriko Halfwolf, Maika's mother, is both known and feared on both sides of the trucelands. Made especially interesting by the fact that both the Arcanics and the Cumaea (who are deadly enemies, just back from war) refer to her as a sort of Token Evil Teammate, making you wonder what Ms. Halfwolf has been up to. Especially when Lady Yvette, whom Maika knew in happier times and blames for the loss of her arm, tells Maika "your mother betrayed you worse than I ever did."
    • Known to few, but Maika is the granddaughter of the Queen of Wolves, who is the most powerful Ancient alive.
    • The other side of Maika's family turns out to be descended from the Shaman-Empress.
  • Fantastic Drug: Dreamtar is a fantasy analogue to opium and it causes feelings of euphoria and seeing visions. Unfortunately, Arcanics are easily hooked on it. Because it was the cats that introduced the plant that is the main ingredient for Dream Tar, many Arcanics hate cats, believing the cats had done so to purposely hook them on the drug.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Lord Doctor creates a bomb fueled by infernal energies drained from a captive Monstrum, which upon detonation devastates a city and even has a mushroom cloud.
  • Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: The Cumean witch-nuns can use the body of Arcanics to create a substance called Lilium. It has many healing effects, and even brings a character back from the dead.
  • Fantastic Racism: Loads and loads of it. Heck, it drives the entire conflict of the series! The humans hate the Arcanics, the Arcanics hate the humans, both of them resent the Ancients, the Ancients often resent them and the cats, everyone distrusts the cats, the cats hate the Old Gods, and the Old Gods hate everybody. There's even racism between the Arcanics, as human-appearing Arcanics like Maika are seen as being borderline humans by some of the more animalistic Arcanics and treated with disdain (animalistic traits are seen as gifts from the goddess by the Arcanics).
  • Foreshadowing: Kippa is shown to be able to understand Zinn, something only Maika is able to. Issue #19's opening flashback suggests this is because of a blessing given to her as an infant by a mysterious Ancient.
  • Gigantic Moon: Shown in the background after Maika killed all the wolves.
  • God in Human Form: Well, Arcanic form, but Yimh Nem turns out to be an Ancient disguised as an Arcanic.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Professor Tam Tam mentions that some academics argue that the Arcanics shouldn't be classified as a separate race as they're really just a hybrid of Ancient and humans. The first Arcanic happened when an Ancient female became pregnant from the human she was dallying with and gave birth to what appeared to be a full human. This girl would be the Shaman-Empress, and shortly after her birth many Ancients found themselves with half-human children.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Maika's missing arm really does hinder her, during a fight she has to bash someone in the face with her stump. It's only because of surprise and her own inhuman strength that the attack was enough to knock her opponent over. The lack of an arm also limits how much she can carry, so she needed to recruit Kippa as a personal carrier.
    • On the villainous side, whatever happened at Constantine did a number on Hammer. She's always wearing a veil over her face and has been rendered mute, needing to use sign language to communicate with her fellow Inquisitrixes.
  • Have We Met Yet?: Maika has a vision of the Shaman-Empress, who speaks of having met an older version of Maika at some point.
  • Hermaphrodite: The Old Gods are all male and female at once, and refer to each other as "sister-brother".
  • Hidden Depths: Kippa is one of the few who can hear the Monstrum, which implies she's either Arcanic nobility or possibly even the child of an Ancient.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: Implied when the Baroness warns her wife against getting too frisky as it's both their "Lunars" and getting pregnant during the war would be inconvenient for either of them.
  • Horror Hunger: The Monstrum will consume anything (or anyone) given an opportunity. Suppressing this hunger only makes it harder to control when it gets out of hand. Over the course of the story Maika manages to wrest enough control over her Monstrum to limit its eating to people she's willing to do without. Maika's own horror hunger (she's shown killing and eating a hyena with her bare hand in one of her first scenes) likely stems from this source.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: For thousands of years, Ancients had been having sex with humans and there had never been any resulting children. However, all that contact with humanity had been reducing the differences between humans and Ancients until a baby boom of Arcanic hybrids happened. Also, being with humans so often may be leading to the Ancients becoming weaker. The Sword of the East tells the Queen of Wolves that the Ancients have been losing power for 1000 years and are almost mortal now. Meeting a half-human Arcanic centuries ago is also a factor in Maika's Monstra being so different from other Old Gods.
  • Humans Are White: Averted, the palest humans or human-like individuals are a light brown or dark yellow. After that there are many people with much darker skins.
  • I Gave My Word: Ren continues to follow Maika knowing full well she doesn't trust him even before she finds out about his divided loyalties because he promised Tuya he would keep her safe.
  • It Gets Easier: By Issue #26, Maika has gotten so desensitized to the Horror Hunger that comes with being Zinn's host that while she's horrified at having to feed on people, she doesn't get full of suicidal self-loathing over it anymore.
  • I Know Your True Name: Maika's ultimate control over her Monster.
  • Immortal Ruler: The Ancients might be losing their power, but they are still ageless and run the Arcanic Empire.
  • I'm Not Afraid of You: Maika says this a lot. Especially to the Monstrum, as she's first finding out what it is. She repeatedly threatens to "cut it out" if it acts up. She even draws blood (her own) to make her point before Master Ren stops her. Of course, she's crying helplessly while she says it, and she's clearly terrified of the Monstra, so it comes across as more bravado than anything. Still, it wins the grudging respect of the Monstrum. Most of the people she says it to wind up dead.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Maika is a caught in a bomb blast and, standing near a window, she gets impaled in many areas of her body with large pieces of glass.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Cat sorcerers who can (temporarily) raise the dead are called Nekomancers.
  • Interrogating the Dead: The Sword of the East has six children who survived Constantine killed so her Nekomancers can compel their ghosts to tell her exactly what happened there.
  • Interspecies Romance: Arcanics can trace their existence to relationships between human and Ancient basically impossible today. It also turns out the Shaman-Empress controlled Zinn not because she had the techno-magical might to order Monstra around, but because they were lovers... at least, that’s how Zinn remembers it.
  • In the Blood: The Monstra reveals to Maika that the mask fragments didn't meld it into her, it's always been present in her bloodline. Additionally, the Monkey King talks about the Sword of the East (Maika's aunt) being god-touched.
  • Killer Rabbit: The Monkey King looks like a cute toy monkey with a heart-shaped design on his face, but he's still a powerful Ancient and he's going to have six Arcanic children tortured or killed to get the information he wants.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Lilium in high concentrations will cause Arcanics to be paralyzed with agony. Lady Yvette tries to use this to her advantage — however, Maika is nearly immune because of the god inside her.
  • Lady Land: Word of God says that Monstress' world is influenced by the matriarchal culture of ancient China; the Cumaea, who basically rule humankind, are all women, while the Arcanic Empire is more egallitarian, but still has an awful lot of women in the leading roles.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Rezak.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • After escaping the Isle of Bones, Kippa and Ren forget everything that happened there. Maika, however, retains her memories, possibly due to the Monstrum.
    • Zinn is missing large chunks of his memory. The Lord Doctor claims that this is because he's deliberately repressed those memories so that he doesn't have to remember betraying and killing the Shaman-Empress.
  • Lightning Gun: The weapons technology of this world has reached a point where some of the guards carry rifles that shoot lightning.
  • Licked by the Dog: Kippa voluntarily follows Maika when she breaks out of the Cumaea slave prison because Maika's "good at killing people" and would therefore make a good protector. Even after Maika frightens Kippa by eating another rescued Arcanic child in a fit of Horror Hunger Kippa seems to instinctively know that Maika cares for her, and sticks by her even in dangerous situations. (Although it doesn't stop her from temporarily running away when she knows her life is in danger from the Monstrum.) After Kippa learns that it was the Monstra that forced Maika to eat the child she's willing to give Maika credit for trying to do the right thing. Maika is surprised by this, but it ultimately wins her over.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Most Arcanics — excluding Maika, Moriko and Tuya, who are the only Arcanic thus far seen who have a fully human appearance — have horns, animal ears, wings, or some other animal-like trait, but are mostly humanoid. This is in contrast to the Ancients, who range from looking like talking animals to simply having animal heads.
  • Long-Lost Relative: The Sword of the East, Warlord of the Arcanic Empire, is a female Arcanic determinator with scarred but familiar and entirely human facial features. She's reminded that there's still hope of her being reunited with her long-lost sister. No points for guessing who that might be. She's later revealed to be Maika's aunt. And it turns out she had no idea that Moriko had a daughter.
  • Looming Silhouette of Rage: In one of the alternate covers, Maika gets one of these — with her eyes glowing, no less.
  • Lost Technology: The Ancients of old and the Shaman-Empress could create amazing technology, which includes stasis chambers, robots and memory-recording devices. According to the Lord Doctor, they could even travel the stars and manipulate time. One of his professed goals is to build a world where such technology can be recreated.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Anyone possessed by a Monstrum, like Maika and the Mother Superior, can sprout Combat Tentacles which are capable of devouring things.
  • Made a Slave: This is the fate of many Arcanics. In the beginning of the series, Maika is made a slave for a second time. She was going up for auction, likely to be a Sex Slave but instead is taken by Lady Sophia to be a lab animal. This second enslavement is actually a Batman Gambit to get her inside the Cumaean defences.
  • Made of Iron: Lady Sophia takes direct hits from Maika's flamethrower twice in an attempt to Kill It with Fire. Maika then impales her with the flamethrower's bayonet, and Sophia still survives. It turns out many of the Cumaea are almost as tough — apparently lilium is powerful stuff. Maika herself can take a beating and get back up.
  • Magical Eye: Issue #19 reveals that Kippa has the ability to, seemingly, see people's true selves.
  • Magical Gesture: All the time. A particularly memorable one is when the Cumaea Mother Superior mysteriously drains an Inquisitrix of life force in a way suspiciously similar to Maika's.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: Averted, while there are primitive Arcanic tribes, the Arcanics do use technology that is on par with the humans and were stated to have far better tech in the days of the Shaman-Empress. The Sword of the East is also building a fleet of the largest category of combat airship to battle the humans. As for the Human Federation, even in the earliest days they had psionics and will happily acquire any magical artifact they can use.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: How Arcanics came about. According to Professor Tam Tam, Ancients just can't resist human "company".
  • Morality Pet: Kippa will prick the conscience of the brutal Maika… and the pragmatic Master Ren.
  • Multiple-Tailed Beast: Most cats have at least two tails, being based on Nekomata. Some Ancients and their Arcanic progeny have multiple tails as well, the Wolf Queen has nine and her daughter the Sword of the East has three.
  • Mysterious Parent: See Famous Ancestor. Moriko Halfwolf may or may not be dead, but it's a bit hard to believe she can be, once you hear the way people talk about her.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • All of the Inquisitrixes use Nom de Guerre like "Flay", "Hammer", and other decidely bloodthirsty references.
    • Also the Lord of Carrion, the only god that died (though the Lord can still exert influence in the world and may resurrect).
  • Nature Tinkling: In the fifth issue, Maika squats to piss on the ground, Master Ren chiding her for not going behind a bush for the sake of decency.
  • Necromancer: Cats are the necro... er… nekomancers of this world. They have the power to hold a spirit from going to the afterlife and compelling it to talk. The Sword of the East had several children killed and their ghosts interrogated. Doing so, she discovers that her sister had a daughter, Maika and that it was Maika that killed over 140,000 at Constantine.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Maika's father leads an organization called the Blood Court, which refutes the rule of the Dawn and Dusk courts and contains the forces of many of the world's most powerful warlords.
  • Nice Guy: Rarest of rare in Monstress' world, but there is one: Rezak. He risks his life to save an Arcanic child, is friends with a high-up Cumaea member, and when Maika is pushed into him by a Cumaea after being bought, his first instinct is to hug her. Whether he'll remain nice in this Crapsack World remains to be seen, but he's doing a pretty good job of it so far.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. To mess with Corvin the Arcanic Lord, Maika squats to take a piss right in front of him, leading Master Ren to chide her for not using a nearby bush. After that, she takes a scarf from a dead soldier and wipes herself with it.
  • Noodle Incident: Constantine. All that anyone knows is someone or something set off a Fantastic Nuke that killed more than 140,000 people. Maika and seven other Arcanic children were the only unwounded survivors; survivors whom the Ancients are perfectly willing to sacrifice hoping to learn what happened because human fear that the Arcanics were responsible is the only thing holding the tenuous peace. While the Arcanics are doing their best to stoke that fear, they have no more idea what happened than the humans.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: When the Dusk Court elite forces turn on Maika and ambush her, she whips out her assault rifle. The next scene you see Maika unconscious inside a high-tech sarcophagus and Tanno saying that she killed some of his finest soldiers.
  • One-Word Title: Monstress.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Everyone, including Maika, believe the Old Gods are dead thanks to the Shaman-Empress. However, the Monstrum reveals that only one god has ever died and that its bones and flesh became very valuable commodities.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Federation of Man. Apparently it used to be an actual Federation until the Cumaea took over; there's still an elected parliament officially running things, but it and the military are heavily influenced by the witches.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: The cats. "Everybody knows [their] kind are thieves," after all. The Cumaea describe them to a group of young novices in a background panel as "the most treacherous creatures a member of our Order can face." They appear so far to be mostly harmless, even ineffectual — if mysterious — poetical philophers, but there may or may not be something deeper and darker to them.
  • Power at a Price: Maika's monstrum makes her the most powerful person in the whole setting. It also causes her Horror Hunger and consumed the remains of her left arm.
  • Power Incontinence: Maika's infiltration plan depends upon using her Arcanic magic to break her slave collar. When she's finally fueled by enough rage and boosted by the Monstrum her power breaks open all of the slaves' collars and also breaks open all of their cell doors to boot, flinging the entire front of Maika's cell across the cell block with enough force to fatally pin her tormentor to the opposite wall.
  • Precursors: One of Professor Tam Tam's quoted lectures speaks of a race known as Jagarans who were the first sentient beings in this world, were advanced enough to travel among the stars, and taught the cats everything they know. Most cat scholars deny they ever existed, as they don't want to admit that they were predated or needed uplifting.
  • The Prophecy: Apparently there's one that a descendent of the Shaman-Empress will inherit her power during a war worse than any other, and be the deciding factor in the outcome. Just about everyone thinks that Maika is the one spoken of.
  • Psychic Powers: It's fairly rare, but some human females have these powers, including precognition and telekinesis. These abilities mimic much of the supernatural abilities of the Arcanics. And then it was discovered that Lilium can boost these abilities. In the first issue, when Maika blasts apart her cell with only her mind, the other inmates note that she has just used a "witch power".
  • Rapid Aging: This happens to the victims of Maika's Monstrum when it "feeds" off of them, as well as a few other characters, foreshadowing that the Cumaea Mother Superior is also possessed by a Monstra.
  • Really Royalty Reveal:
    • While she's not exactly royalty, there is no way the reader could have guessed that Maika is a lady before Corvin mentions it. There's implication that Maika's mother is the sister of the warlord known as the Sword of the East.
    • Tuya is revealed to be a Dusk Court aristocrat at the end of Issue #6.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Ancients and the Old Gods are practically Time Abysses. Maika's father claims to have hosted the Monstrum for 500 years before passing it to her, but it's unclear if that's an Arcanic trait or a benefit of the Monstrum.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Blood Court refutes the authority of the Dawn and Dusk courts and acts under their own distinction.
  • The Reveal:
    • Issue #11 answers a lot. The one old god that died is named Hajin, and he/she was killed by Zinn (the Monstrum). Their quarrel is over Zinn's desire to conquer the world and slaughter anything that isn't Old God. Hajin reveals that the Old Gods are just exiles from the Shadow Plain and it's actually against their belief system to harm the living (Hajin even apologizes to a deer that died from accidentally touching him/her). Other reveals of that issue include that the Arcanic offspring are draining power off of the Ancients, so one Ancient known as the Blood Fox tried to eradicate them, and that Moriko had Maika only as a means to have someone of the Shaman-Empress' bloodline influence the Monstrum. The mask is an artifact to protect its wearer from the worst effects of the Monstrum.
    • Issue #21 also answers a lot. The "Doctor" whom Ren reports to is Maika's father, who is the leader of a secret army of Arcanic warlords that is planning to usurp the rule of the Dawn and Dusk courts, and Take Over the World.
  • Reverse Mole: Lady Atena of the Cumaea is passing reports to the Prime Minister of the Human Federation, who is eager to try and end the witch-nuns' influence on her country. And Rezak, the Arcanic slave at her compound, is actually Atena's half-brother.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The Federation's army and navy are at odds with each other, with the War Hawk leaders of the army siding with the Cumea while the more reasonable and peaceful admiralty siding with the Prime Minister.
  • Run for the Border/Fugitive Arc: After trashing a Cumaea compound, Maika is now well-known as the equivalent of Public Enemy #1 in the Federation, and she has to get across the border as fast as possible. Not that she's safe even then.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the Federation army starts marching on the Arcanic city of Ravenna, the city's political and military leadership all hop aboard airships and flee, leaving the civilian population to their fates.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Two thousand years ago, the Ancient known as the Blood Fox tried to wipe out all Arcanics, as he believed that doing so would reverse the Ancients' power loss. To stop him, the Shaman-Empress bound him on the Isle of Bones.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Corvin accuses Maika — or "Lady Halfwolf", as he calls her — of being spoiled, to particularly ironic effect considering what we know of her backstory.
  • Shock Collar/Slave Collar: The Cumaea use these on Arcanic slaves. Maika has to break out of hers, which is not an easy task.
  • Sophisticated as Hell:
    • Ren tends to speak quite eloquently, but the end of the first issue gives us this:
      Ren: To quote the poets... we're fucked.
    • The Dracul that Kippa encounters in Issue #22 also has a quite flowery way of speaking, but when Kippa suggests that it spend some time on the surface, it states bluntly that it wouldn't go up there "if my fucking life depended on it".
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Turns out Moriko is this. She went to find the last direct descendant of the Shaman-Empress in order to breed with him for the purpose of having a child that'd be a near-incarnation of the Shaman-Empress.
  • Steampunk: Very much so, although with more Asian and ancient Egyptian aesthetics than the usual. Advanced technology, including flamethrowers and prosthetic limbs, in an old-fashioned society, complete with plenty of bronze-coloured metal and large numbers of airships.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Wanting to show off her great strength to Tuya, Maika challenges a winning Arcanic sumo wrestler who's over twice her size to a match and easily throws her down.
  • Super Strength: Maika has this even without the Monstrum. She's capable of punching through a stone wall and easily rips the arm off a pirate.
  • Superior Successor: The Arcanic Lords are more powerful than their Ancient parents, though they lack the Ancients' immortality.
  • There Is Another: The Monstra hints that the reason it is living within Maika has to do with her lineage. But when she threatens to kill herself to get rid of it, it replies, "No matter. There is still another of your line into whom I may pass." Maika is understandably surprised.
  • True-Breeding Hybrid: Arcanics are the descendants of the immortal Ancients and their assorted human lovers over the past few centuries. Most consider them to have become a distinct species.
  • Vampiric Draining: How Monstra feed; most living things have the life drained out of them on contact with a Monstrum in seconds.
  • Video-Game Flamethrowers Suck: A non-video game averted example. Not only is the flame stream devastating, but the flamethrowers in this world don't have any bulky tanks and have a large bayonet. Lady Sophia found out first-hand and only survived through a large infusion of an experimental Lilium serum and it still took her a long time to recover.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Arcanic Empire. It's not quite "vestigial" yet, but it is on its decline, and most Arcanics so far appear to live nomadically in rural areas (within Arcanic territory, of course).
  • Wardens Are Evil: And if you are mean to the wrong prisoner, you don't live long.
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much the point of the entire series.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Constantine event caused over 140,000 Arcanic and human casualties. The humans believe an Arcanic superweapon caused all this and they quickly called for a ceasefire. There is no superweapon, but the Arcanics are happy to let the humans believe this.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Neither the Monkey King nor the Sword of the East hestitate to murder innocent Arcanic children if it suits their purposes.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This is the Cumaea's motto and M.O. Even humans who would otherwise want to make peace with the Arcanics are too afraid of the Cumaea to try — except for the Edenites, of course.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Whenever Maika tries to do something truly questionable that isn't in self-defense, or deny her inner humanity (basically...) Master Ren gives her a good talking to.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Although she knows when to fight or run if she or her friends are in danger, Kippa is still pretty idealistic. She reacts to a cat like any child of our world (where cats are cute and not eccentric and not always trustworthy sapient philosophers) when everyone in her world knows you should never trust a cat. (Or a nun... or a nurse... huh.)
  • You Have Failed Me: The Inquisitrixes massacre the survivors of Maika's raid to eliminate all witnesses and to provide a pretext for a new war on the Arcanics.


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