In Moonstruck, co-creator of Lumberjanes Grace Ellis envisions a world where supernatural creatures and humans go about their everyday lives side-by-side in ways both different and not-so-different from our own world. The comic is set in the fictional college town of Blitheton, where young adult Julie works as a barista in a local coffee shop. Julie is also a werewolf—a part of her identity she is far from comfortable with. Volume 1 of Magic to Brew follows Julie’s new relationship with Selena, who also happens to be a werewolf. One of their first dates goes horribly awry when the two attend a magic show with Julie’s best friend and coworker Chet, who suffers a great loss when the magician turns a malicious spell on them. Now Julie and her friends must find a way to restore Chet and stop the magician’s plans before it’s too late.
Moonstruck is packed full of both cuteness and inclusive representation. The book does a great job depicting the awkwardness and excitement of a new relationship, as well as some of the challenges involved as two people get to know each other better. Julie and Selena’s romance is heartfelt and not graphically depicted, making this excellent all-ages queer representation. Julie’s strong friendship with Chet is enjoyable as well, and it’s nice to see how they support each other through some difficult identity issues. Overall, the mood has strong “coffee shop AU” overtones (a popular fan fiction genre often associated with feel-good, every-day, “fluffy” cuteness).
Moonstruck is one of the more diverse comics I’ve seen lately, offering characters with many intersectional identities. Julie is a queer and fat Latinx woman, while her girlfriend Selena is black and also fat and queer. Julie’s friend Chet is a non-binary person of color (though I’m not sure their racial identity is specified) and uses they/them pronouns. There is also a representation of disability and a variety of body types among the side and background characters of the comic, and hopefully more of this will be brought forward in later volumes. Although some of the comic centers around struggles with identity, these challenges are mainly focused on the characters’ status as supernatural creatures and not their sexuality, race, gender, etc.
The pacing of the book could have been better; the end of the volume finds the main plot wrapped up with the villain exposed and defeated. There were quite a few interesting elements to the story that ended up somewhat rushed, and the speed with which the characters’ problems were solved was a bit fast for my tastes. However, this type of plotting might work well for younger readers. I also found the portrayal of Julie’s shame over her werewolf identity somewhat odd, since none of the other supernatural characters seemed to feel the same way, and there wasn’t any overt prejudice or bigotry directed at supernatural creatures. The story does continue, so it’s possible what unfolds in Volume 2 could clear some of this up and may change the way readers view the events of the first volume.
Shae Beagle’s soft and warm art perfectly complements the comic’s slice-of-life tone and I really enjoyed Caitlin Quirk’s colors. Art from Kate Leth features periodically, depicting a Babysitters’ Club/Boxcar Children-style book series that Julie and Selena both love.
On the whole, Moonstruck is a fun read and would be great for fans of Lumberjanes. I’m looking forward to future volumes, as I hope they may solve some of the issues and omissions in this particular book. The comic can be enjoyed by anyone but would make a good addition to a collection especially for teens and young adults.
Moonstruck, Vol. 1: Magic to Brew
By Grace Ellis
Art by Shae Beagle, Kate Leth, Caitlin Quirk
Publisher Age Rating: E
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Black, Latinx, Lesbian, Queer Nonbinary,
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, LGBTQIA+ Creator