Consistent with the delightful characterisation and beautiful illustrations of the first and second volumes, Marjorie Liu’s “Monstress (Volume Three: Haven)” is set primarily in the neutral city of Pontus, where Maika Halfwolf’s plans to seek refuge is disrupted by the persistence of her pursuers as well as by developing revelations of her past and her relationship with the monstrum Zinn. In particular, the expositions surrounding the other two main characters Kippa and Ren – whose roles and motivations are fleshed out more clearly, especially in relation to Maika – and returning characters such as Corvin D’Oro create a deeper sense of reader attachment, with growing concern over their well-being in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
A likely frustration with the series (perhaps as with issue-based comic series, and with me making the erroneous assumption that this would be the third and concluding volume), however, may stem from the perpetual sense of anticipation – as the main trio lurch from one crisis or problem to another – without necessarily knowing the main climax preceding a narrative conclusion. Two likely counter-arguments are that Liu does provide information about the broader historical conflicts among the races and therefore hints at the clashes to come, and that the reader shares and experiences the same uncertainty or lack of knowledge as Maika does. Which does a lot for the atmosphere of suspense, even with some elements of foreshadowing.
Be that as it may, what “Monstress (Volume Three: Haven)” does well is to move the attention slightly away from Maika per se, and in doing so create new story arcs to build upon. As previously mentioned, Kippa stands out as an innocent, empathetic, and adorable character – who is not only coming to terms with her unfortunate circumstances but who also seeks to rise above the petty disputes – and this third volume sets out what appears to be an interesting trajectory for her. A complementary arc also connects Master Ren to this trajectory, with even more anticipation for the events to follow.