The debut issue of Moonstruck, from Lumberjanes writer Grace Ellis and newcomer Shae Beagle, establishes a charming world. The story itself, though, isn’t the strongest start for the opening to a new title, but luckily Beagle’s whimsical art helps ease the scripts flaws.
Moonstruck takes place in a word much like our own, but populated with magic and magical creatures. The heroine of the story, Julie, is a barista at the Black Cat Cafe, along with her best friend and centaur, Chet. Most of the issue focuses on Julie’s anxiety about a potential romance, ending with a somewhat foreboding cliffhanger.
The most apparent thing from this story, right off the bat, is that it’s a pretty light romantic comedy. There is not, at least in this issue, a ton of brooding or action. Just because a story is light in tone, however, doesn’t mean it can’t have depth. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ellis gets there quite yet. Most of the characters introduced in this first issue stay relatively one-dimensional. Julie is anxious about dating, is a bookworm, and is hiding something. Chet is flamboyant. Julie’s friends are in a band, and Cass has some magical powers.
These qualities in themselves aren’t bad, but there isn’t enough here for readers to really connect with. Part of this, I think, is because the story is told almost with vignettes. Julie does something or goes somewhere, we’re introduced to some characters, and then Julie goes somewhere else and does another thing and meets more people. This choppy structure doesn’t give us much time with any of the characters.
Beagle’s art is pleasantly light-hearted to suit the tone of the script. I don’t think there is a single hard edge in the whole book; everything is soft and curvy. The warm color palette also helps create a glow-y kind of atmosphere. Later in the book, towards the foreboding cliffhanger, the palette gets significantly dark, shifting to cooler blues and purples, which is a really nice visual transition. Finally, the two page spread towards the end does a great job with the most overt display of magic in the book so far.
Overall, Moonstruck #1 is a disjointed read tied together with strong art. The world and characters established could be interesting, but at this point, there isn’t quite enough meat on those bones. With a compelling cliffhanger, it’ll be interesting to see if issue two gets the story moving in a more solid direction.