Monstress, Volume 7: Devourer is the seventh volume in Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s ongoing secondary-universe cosmic-horror fantasy graphic novel series. Volume 7 collects Monstress issues 36 to 41.
The ongoing war between humans and Ancient-descended Arcanics has provided the humans with ample opportunity to show just how despicable humans can be. Now there’s an equal opportunity for the semi-divine Ancients to prove that they too are complete monsters to their own descendants.
Maika Halfwolf is bonded to the cosmic entity Zinn, which imbues her with enormous power … at a cost. She has lost one of her arms and acquired a tendency to consume those around her when peckish. Maika/Zinn together are a weapon that the Arcanics and their Ancient rulers must have if they are to survive the human attacks. Ideally, weapons should not have freewill. Maika is a conscious, sentient being, which poses something of a problem to the Ancient/Arcanic alliance.
Maika is not in possession of certain vital, need-to-know facts about her friend Tuya — specifically that Tuya is less a friend and more a charming enemy, one who will certainly sacrifice Maika in the name of the greater good. Maika falls prey to Tuya’s trap. Maika’s mind is cast down into darkness, leaving her body unharmed. Without Maika’s inconvenient consciousness, the Ancients can control her body.
Tuya has a pressing problem beyond having betrayed her best friend, that is, the cut-throat politics of the Ancients’ Dawn and Dusk courts. She is the latest clone of the Baroness. The Baroness is a serial immortal, whose memories consume those of each clone as it reaches a certain level of development. Tuya is almost at the end of her separate existence. How is she to spend her final days?
Tuya and her close allies may have less time than they expect. Maika’s mind is trapped, not extinguished. Recovery is not, as assumed, impossible, merely difficult. Regaining consciousness and control of her body will demand great effort, but great effort is something at which Maika excels. What then of those who tried to strip her personhood from her?
Tanaka’s art continues to be of high quality. It’s a bit of a pity that what the lavish illustrations depict is a sequence of war crimes, crimes growing ever greater and more appalling. I found myself appreciating the art but recoiling at the subjects.
An alternative title for this series could have been “a series of increasingly horrifying revelations.” Or “a cast of characters adept at convincing themselves to commit terrible acts in the name of the greater good.”
There are sympathetic characters in this series, and characters with enormous political power. Those two sets do not for the most part overlap. Each reveal underlines how awful the rulers on all sides are. The Ancients, for example, have decided that their decline may be due to having produced the Arcanics, thus there’s a whole new covert attempt to quietly genocide the Arcanics out of existence.
While this is a perfectly valid creative choice, the risk is that at some point the reader will conclude this is a world beyond salvation. There are too few pauses between episodes of horror and exploitation. Which is fine if the reader wants to experience that. Other readers may experience what might be termed “atrocity fatigue” and decide not to seek out volume eight when it comes along. I am not sure if I’ve reached that point yet. Guess I will find out in 2023….