Moonstruck, Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis (Author), Shae Beagle (Illustrator), Kate Leth (Illustrator), Caitlin Quirk (Illustrator), Clayton Cowles (Illustrator)

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Published: 27 March 2018

Publisher: Image Comics

Category: Graphic Novel/Fantasy/LGBT+

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

The first chapter of the brand new, all-ages magical coffee-laden adventure from Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS and talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE.

Collects issues 1 through 5

Rating: 4 Stars

The broader setting of the story has a lot of potential. There’s quite a pantheon going on in this town, everything from werewolves to centaurs to Medusa creatures and more. There were more that I didn’t quite recognize, some I did but couldn’t remember the name for, and none of it’s weird. There’s not much interaction with humans as far as I could tell, at least not worth mentioning except in the last few pages. It was fun seeing the different beings interacting, whether it be snakes hiding under someone’s hat or someone else spontaneously turning into a bat, almost every panel was full of life.

Something I like is that the writers thought about real world diversity (racial diversity, body types, etc.) as well as creature diversity. The lead character, for example, is a plus-size werewolf named Julie, a Latinx lesbian who’s just beginning a new relationship with fellow werewolf Selena, a black woman. Julie’s centaur co-worker, Chet, is also Latinx, I believe, though I’m not 100% sure about that.

Moving on to the story itself, aside from these aspects. I liked the energy between Julie and Selena. It was kind of a nervous, blossoming relationship kind of energy that was sweet. Counterpoint to that lightness is Julie’s anxiety about standing up for herself which is tied into her werewolf identity. There are a few times throughout the book when other characters call her “wolfy” or similar terms which seem derogatory in this world and the manner in which it’s being said. There’s not a lot of direct time spent on this, which I thought was a shame.

Chet’s questioning of their identity after the magic show and its results was heartbreaking. There were some feelings I had about the reactions to it from Julie and from Selena, either of which were slightly different, and I think show different viewpoints on what identity means to people. I think it was at this point that I realized there were some deeper storylines this book glanced over, but didn’t dig into when it could’ve. It was fun, but didn’t develop what it could have.

I mentioned diversity earlier and I also wanted to mention the detail I saw paid in the book. I loved what the writers/illustrators did, particularly such as the theater scene. Julie, Selena, and Chet go to the magic show in an old theater, where Chet is able to settle into the seats because the armrests rise up to accommodate centaur bodies; there is also space for mermaid/siren specific wheelchairs. I don’t know that these species were meant to stand in for specific disabilties or body types, so don’t take my assumptions as gospel, just an observation.

I was fairly content with the story up until the end. This volume was decently plotted, with a few slightly confusing panels, but it was the ending where I had the biggest problem. It was solved much too quickly and easily. It was, almost literally, a Scooby Doo ending and it was such a disappointment after such an enjoyable read.

I’m hoping the storytelling improves in volume 2. There were some great story elements brought up, real world touchstones that could be interesting storylines if given the attention. As it stands, Moonstruck is a fun, fluffy read with cute art that’s a nice way to spend a couple hours without worrying about a convoluted backstory or complicated world building.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Image Comics, in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

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