The series is set in a matriarchal “alternate Asia” riven by war between the Arcanics, magical creatures who sometimes can pass for human, and the Cumea, an order of sorceresses who consume Arcanics to fuel their power. The main character, Maika, is an Arcanic who is set on learning more about, and avenging, her dead mother. According to Liu, among the series’s themes are the inner strength required to withstand constant dehumanization, as well as the power of friendship among women.
The first, triple-sized issue of Monstress received critical praise. Writing for Kotaku, Evan Narcisse called it “a gorgeous comic book about racism, war and slavery”, noting the intricate detail of Takeda’s manga-inspired art. In the A.V. Club, Caitlin Rosberg described the leading characters, all women, as “deeply flawed and showing layers of nuanced characterization that you don’t often see in comic books”, and appreciated the series’s “sense of in-between-ness—(…) neither traditionally Western nor manga, paced like a novel but drawn like a comic”.