Moonstruck is a super-cute new comic from Lumberjanes co-creator Grace Ellis and newcomer Shae Beagle. It’s romance, fantasy, and slice-of-life all in one, with soft dreamy art and a bonus story-within-a-story illustrated by Kate Leth. Readers will swoon, just as the main character Julie swoons over her new crush, Selena.
Julie works with her best friend Chet at the Black Cat Cafe, slinging coffee and gossip while gossiping about gals and guys alike. Julie looks every bit the normal human, but after Chet catches a rogue cup with his hooves, it becomes clear that they do not live in our world. Chet’s a centaur, and the cafe’s patrons include a dude with two faces, a skeleton with surprisingly good fashion sense, and a giant bird/dinosaur thing who somehow manages to make a smartphone work without thumbs. Chet also lets it slip through a series of terrible puns that Julie’s not as normal as she looks: she’s a werewolf.
This is a world with fantastical, mythological creatures and monsters hanging out and living their lives. Things are normal, just a little different. When Manuel the minotaur shows up to get his usual, a flustered Chet knocks over a case of supplies with his back hoof so that Julie will have to run out and get more, leaving Chet alone with Manuel. Julie’s friend Mark, the vampire bat, tries to hide in her hair after a roommate dispute. Lindi, his roommate, lets her hair down when she gets mad -- except her hair is snakes, Medusa-style, and they’re mad too. Lindi’s a great example of the amazing character design in Moonstruck, with her snakes normally kept under wraps with a slouchy knit hat that fits perfectly with her grungy garage band fashion sense. Not a single background character is boring.
Beagle may be new to comics, but her sense of pacing and ability to play with panels suggests she’s been doing it for a long time. Lindi stomps down the fire stairs from her apartment in a full page splash, becoming larger and larger while Julie and Mark struggle to hide in small inset panels. The panel gutters change from white to black and from neat to scratchy, messy lines during fight scenes and times of stress.
The color work is also lovely. It’s overall a fairly muted palette that gets deeper during those times of stress for our characters; magical girl pinks and purples mixed with teal and yellow. The inking is especially soft, with many outlines done in grey of brown instead of black.
Leth’s story-within-a-story is perfectly executed. It’s one of the "Pleasant Mountain Sisters" books that Julie’s rereading since it’s Selena’s favorite. These are basically the Babysitter’s Club books of this universe, and Leth rocks at the cute, exaggerated expressions of the girls and classic narrative structure of the story.
So far the comic is very slice-of-life, but in a magical, fantastical city, and that would be a fine comic on its own -- we’re all here to support our girl Julie as she fights her inner beast and learns to love -- but this issue does hint at some larger conflict coming into play. When Julie pops over to the Little Dog 2, another coffee shop run by clairvoyant Cassandra (there are so many puns and references for fantasy and myth nerds in Moonstruck), Cass gets a vision. This is a serious vision, a full two-page spread, referencing the moon and some bad stuff coming. This naturally freaks out werewolf Julie, who we finally get to see transform. Issue #1 does a lot of necessary worldbuilding, but there’s plenty of conflict coming down the line.
If you’re the kind of person who loved Babysitter’s Club and Sailor Moon, or has been playing Dream Daddy nonstop since it came out, you should definitely check out Moonstruck.