The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Month: May 2018

Book Review: Monstress vol. 1 Awakening Written by Marjorie Liu art by Sana Takeda

By E. Kirshe


Monstress Vol. 1 compiles a compelling story into a physically beautiful book. This volume is a collection of the first six issues of the Monstress series.


The surface plot is engaging fantasy fare- we have a young woman with a mysterious past driving her current path which includes danger and dark magic. She holds a dark power- in this case a literal demon living inside her- and is caught in the middle of an old war. Liu is a fantastic storyteller. She tackles a lot of different themes in this fairly short volume and does so almost seamlessly.


The world of Monstress is a Matriarchal early 1900s Asian-inspired fantasy world. The land is populated by humans, the magical half-breed Arcanics (half Ancient race, half human) and the seeming ghosts of massive old gods litter the landscape. This first arc follows Maika Halfwolf, a humanoid Arcanic with a dark past and a tortured present. Maika enters the story at odds with The Cumaea, a coven of witches who use the Arcanic’s life force for their own ends.


Dropped into a dark and bloody opening, Maika’s journey immediately draws the reader into the action. Liu also dives right into slavery, racism, and the horrors of living in a war torn reality. Maika’s world is a grim one, and the book doesn’t shy away from harsh realities. Maika’s memories are violent and tortured her personality harsh as it should be. Her personal inner fury and turmoil twisted up with a literal monster really drives home everything Liu writes about. It should also be noted that the supporting cast are expertly characterized and none are untouched by this world and believably inhabit it- friend and foe alike are trying to achieve their own objectives. Creative, bleak, yet humorous at times, Liu crafts a real page turner of a fantasy.


This is a world with a deep mythos and there’s no hand-holding from Liu, information about this complex world is mainly revealed slowly layered in with the story. For some, this may be difficult to keep track of but I personally found the natural progression refreshing- you aren’t removed from the narrative for exposition. For those that like a little more information don’t let the learning curve deter you- later chapters are supplemented by in-world academic lectures by the delightful profesor Tam-Tam which lays out some specific information you may need for the story so it’s still an easy world to get a grip on.

Monstress is a dark story with a stunningly designed world to match. Liu’s story is overlaid onto Takedas beautiful and dark artwork. Takeda uses color and tone expertly to highlight appropriate panels and choreographs chaotic action sequences across the page leaving them unmuddled. Takeda brings Liu’s world to life with the occasional sweeping landscape, complex architecture, machinery and beautiful art deco flourishes across the fashion and art of the world. Lius complex characters are rendered as unique individuals. This book is a prime example of how art and writing should work together.


The sheer amount of information may warrant a re-read before volume 2, but anyone who gets into it now will hardly consider that a chore. This book is the product of two gifted creators working extremely well together. The blend of horror, heart, thoughtful characterization (of a refreshingly almost entirely female cast) and utterly well paced writing will make readers eager for more.


Monstress volume 3 will be released August 2018 from Image Comics.


The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Why I Hate Spring, or How I Almost Hung Myself but Went to the Nervous Hospital Instead,” by Dr. Patrick Dobson


About five years ago, I went to the mental hospital. I was going to hang myself. Just as I was choosing the rope, I experienced an epiphany. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, at least, not as good as I thought it was.

Springtime was on me. The season has always been difficult. As days get longer and the light more intense, I get more and more depressed. I find myself crying, seemingly just for the hell of it. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness grow. I stay in bed longer and sleep during odd times of the day. Fatigue plagues me.

Soon, usually by the beginning of March, the world looks and feels dead to me. I see the flowers and the trees busting into green. I hear the birds and see the rabbits. Beauty is all around and I have no connection to it. I isolate myself. Thoughts of suicide and of absconding from home haunt me. A pall hangs over me. I know I should be doing things but cannot find the energy or ambition to undertake them. All sounds are too loud. Activity around me, any activity, grates on me like sandpaper on raw nerves. Continue reading

“Moss,” a poem by Michael Sandler

Photo by Brian Michael Barbeito

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“On Ethics in Monster-Making,” a short story by Derek Heckman

That night the four of us still went to Jordan’s to play Magic. It was Friday after all: What else were we gonna do?

James showed up last, buttoned to the neck in the suit he’d worn that morning, and in his James-way started getting all prissy when he saw that the rest of us had changed. (“You know, in Victorian times someone in mourning would stay in black for-” “Dude, shut the fuck up.”) We said hello to Jordan’s mom—who looked at us like her chest was imploding but couldn’t find anything to say—and climbed the stairs to the attic room we referred to as The Hole. This was a cramped, dust-smelling space no one else ever set foot in, crammed full of boxes the color of rotting olives and squeezed smaller by the ceiling beams we’d just started having to duck. We had a card table wedged near the center of the room, just below the lightbulb that spidered from the rafters.
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Poetry by Holly Day

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“Untouchable Face,” a short story by Jennifer Rachel Baumer

There’s a blue neon cactus on the side of the road, almost turquoise, so diffuse the plasma seems to turn the night around the sign the color of a bruise and she can’t be sure if the sign reads Vacancy or No.  Motel is in the middle of nowhere, east-bound strip of I-80 heading toward Utah, and it’s the middle of the week – she thinks it’s unlikely to be full and signals to the empty highway as she slides right, across weeds and rocks and into the gravel parking lot.  The last hour there haven’t even been semis on the highway and it feels later than it is – just past nine with the last of the summer-green twilight just faded and the sky inky black.

Angela’s been driving eleven hours, from Los Angeles to Elko, Nevada, and beyond, no destination in mind, no cash, just credit cards and fury and a hard knot of tears in her throat.  Eleven hours to make it to nowhere,  driving ever since Jim came home this morning smelling of perfume and guilt but apparently past the point where he needed to make up stories for her.

Apparently he was past a lot of points. Continue reading

“Access Door,” a poem by Mark Belair

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