By: Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle
Illustrator: Caitlin Quirk, Clayton Cowles
Release Date: February 14, 2018
Publisher: Image Comics
Series: Moonstruck (Volume 1)
Graphic novel series Moonstruck is a young adult series that combines fantasy and mystery with an LGBTQ+ cast. Written by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle and illustrated by Caitlin Quirk and Clayton Cowles, this is a series that has graced many “best of” and “you need to read this” lists on professional and fan sites for several years.
The front cover of the Moonstruck Volume 1: Magic to Brew is filled with both overt magical and mythical beings as well as more human-looking characters. A pastel pallet and curving, soft lines give a taste of the art style. Many will be immediately drawn to the artwork. It’s beautiful, inviting, and holds a certain warmth that can be equated to the cozy coffee shop much of the story takes place in.
The cast is one filled with supernatural beings. The world the story is set in is one chock full of the otherworldly. Beings from myth and legend live everyday lives in the city, going about their regular business, such as barista, werewolf, and main character Julie. Chet, fellow coffee shop employee and resident centaur, finds himself the subject of a nasty spell cast by a terrible magican, and it’s up to Julie, her new girlfriend, and their friends to put an end to this mad magician’s shenanigans before its too late.
The premise here is a fun one. What happens when someone goes rogue in a world filled with magic and magical beings? What happens when you find yourself cursed, magicless, and feel like the person staring back at you in the mirror is someone else? This is a major theme of the book: finding out who you are, being comfortable with yourself, and accepting who you are without compromising on becoming the person you know you are deep inside and should be able to outwardly show.
This is best expressed in Chet’s character development despite our main character Julie going through much of the same inner turmoil in a different way. Julie tends to be bullied by neighbors and teased by friends despite her wishes for certain topics not to be brought up. While this can be understood from her frenemies and mere acquaintances, the constant teasing from her friends is odd when it so obviously hurts her feelings.
This leads to the volume’s major flaw. Character motivations seem to change and shift with little motivation or foreshadowing. Julie and her new girlfriend get into a tiff, but motivations and reasonings aren’t clearly stated, leaving the entire interaction feelings rather out of character. This may, in part, but due to the graphic novel’s pacing.
This volume tells a complete story. A mystery unfolds as a curse is laid upon Chet, leaving Julie to find the culprit and reverse the curse’s effects. This is a lot of action for six issues, and character development seems to suffer slightly because of it, to the point where some character’s actions don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
Representation, on the other hand, is expertly done. Many characters are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Julie has a girlfriend. Chet is interested in a regular customer of the coffee shop, a kindly minotaur. The graphic novel also has fantastic fat representation. Julie herself, along with many of the other character are on the bigger side. They are drawn beautifully, curvy and confident. And when they aren’t confident, it isn’t because of their size or shape, and they aren’t immediately regulated to being mere villains.
In all, the first three issues that compose the graphic novel are the strongest. While the story does fall a bit flat in some areas, having some pacing and character development issues, it does make great strides in representation on a number of fronts for young adults. The art is also top-tier, something that is sure to draw readers all on its own.