Writer: Grace Ellis
Artist: Shae Beagle
Guest Artist: Kate Leth
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
A review by John Dubrawa
For a publisher known for primarily mature-themed, dystopian-future-set titles, Image Comics is putting out some serious BOOM! Studios vibes with Moonstruck #1. But that’s to be expected with writer Grace Ellis at the helm, who also helped to create Lumberjanes, one of BOOM!’s flagship series. I sadly missed the boat (or would it be canoe?) on Lumberjanes but if the playful writing style that Ellis displays in this first issue is any indication, I may have to eventually go back and rectify that mistake. Couple Ellis’ lighthearted approach with newcomer Shae Beagle’s whimsical art and Moonstruck #1 is a beautifully-realized, unique fantasy world sure to transfix any reader.
This may sound strange, but what makes Moonstruck #1 feel so unique is how it revels in the mundane. Rather than drowning the reader in exposition as so many fantasy series tend to do in their first outing, Ellis allows her world of mystical and ethereal creatures to simply exist, choosing to define the world through a rich and relatable cast of characters instead. As our protagonist, Julie the barista operates in the same humdrum routine we’ve all lived at some point in our lives (or are currently living, coughcough). She goes to work, chats with her punny co-worker, Chet (who happens to be a centaur, no biggie), reads cheesy mystery novels, deals with incessant arguments between her neighbors (a vampire bat and a gorgon, naturally), and struggles to find the courage to pursue a girl she really likes. Sound familiar? Moonstruck #1 is about as relatable as it gets, folks.
Yet for those readers that need a little bit more to sink their teeth/claws/hooves into, Ellis has another trick up her narrative sleeve. You see, Julie has a secret, a part of her life she’d rather her new crush not find out about (I won’t reveal what that secret is but knowing it does make the title of the book a bit more playful). Ellis manages to weave hints of this conflict seamlessly throughout the issue, demonstrating a nice balance between quick-witted dialogue and brief moments of dread for our main character. It’s unfortunate that late in the issue Ellis tosses in another mystery–this one a vague prophecy–because the execution is just not as clean. It creates a sudden full-stop to the natural flow of the story that Ellis establishes until that point, but above all else it feels like an unnecessary conflict to add in toward the end of a book that already has an established conflict.
Where the world of Moonstruck #1 truly comes to life is in Shae Beagle’s artwork. I’ve already described it as whimsical, but honestly that’s the best description for it. Beagle manages to capture not only the spectrum of creatures that inhabit this world, but does so while representing all types of body shapes, skin colors, and genders. Representation is something a lot of readers are jonesing for and this book has it in spades thanks to Beagle’s art. It’s also worth mentioning the brief time that Kate Leth spends in this issue drawing the in-universe mystery novels that Julie reads. Julie is an aspiring ghostwriter, so the inclusion of her notations present in these panels are a nice touch, be it from Leth herself or letterer Clayton Cowles. Speaking of Cowles, his lettering breathes as much life into this world as Ellis’ script and Beagle’s art. Word balloons are as bubbly as the characters themselves and the occasional onomatopoeia lends a surprising amount of character to a book already brimming with it.
Buy it! It’s hard to establish a new fantasy series right out of the gate but Moonstruck #1 manages to do just that, simply by letting the world breathe before our eyes. It feels lived in and alive and it’s only the first issue. That is primarily due to the fact that writer Grace Ellis transforms this world of monsters and creatures into something familiar to the reader. It’s a slice-of-life style of storytelling that makes for yet another successful new series at Image Comics.