Monstress #8 lurches its characters into a restrictive environment. They’re on a boat, sailing to a forbidden island. Restricting the setting for a comic script might cause writing blockades, with only limited space to move the characters around. However, close environments allow for conflict to play out more quickly.
Maika Halfwolf is a character with deep internal struggles. She experiences two powerful conflicts. She is caught between two distinct races within the Monstress world, and battling a powerful, old god living within her called a Monstrum. In contrast, her traveling companions Kippa and Ren face less of a constellation of problems. The face more direct obstacles.
Kippa learns to Swim.
Ren avoids Evisceration by the ship’s pirate crew, who despise the intelligent race of talking cats, called Nekomancers, to which Ren belongs.
Monstress has excellent comic script elements – a detailed and expansive world building ethos combined with clever wordplay.
Fans of the fantasy genre might remark on the word choice of Nekomancer, which combines the Japanese word for cat (Neko), and the suffix “-mancer”, deriving from Greek (mantea) and Latin (mantia) origins meaning “oracle or divination”. A wordplay on the word and Necromancer, and the act of Necromancy.
Issue #8 is a great example of the Monstress world building ethos. Being on a boat at sea might seem restrictive, but Monstress #8 inviting elements of the ocean into the story.
Maika’s internal struggles rise to the surface again, as she fights with the pirate crew, and has to be separated and isolated. Maika’s isolation represents a large struggle for her character.
As a person caught halfway between two races in the Monstress world, Maika’s struggles explore the theme of isolation – and the fear, rage, and pain that follows.
To enact these themes, and play out Maika’s internal struggle, Monstress #8 introduces shark and octopus characters.
The octopus character has a tentacle torn off by Maika, after they strike her across the face. The stakes are low for the Octopus, who can grown back a limb, but for Maika, the stakes are raised. The shark behaves as one would expect a shark to behave – they are delighted by the sight of blood. Small details such as these show the stellar world building ethos in Monstress, where character motivations and desires are clear when new elements appear.
The consequences of this rage? The ship’s captain isolates Maika up in the crow’s nest, where she is separated from almost everyone.
In Scriptwriting, and when exploring themes of isolation, having the captain suggest Maika accompany her to the Crows Nest – the highest point on a ship – is a deft way to use a limited setting – a boat in this issue – to further the theme and storytelling.
This scene – Octopus insult, Maika retaliation, Shark laughing at blood, subsequent isolation – is one example of the detailed world building ethos, and expertly enacted combination of character desires and theme expansion in Monstress comic scripts.
You can read more about Monstress on the Image comics website.