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Moonstruck Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis

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Other creators involved in the making of this comic include: Art by Shae Beagle, Pleasant Mountain Sisters Art by Kate Leth, Coloring by Caitlin Quirk, Lettering by Clayton Cowles, and Editing/Design by Laurenn McCubbin

Content/Trigger Warning: Bullying, severe aggression, toxic friendship, anxiety, violent fighting, trauma, grief, body dysmorphia.

In the quiet, little town of Blitheton, creatures of all shapes and sizes live normal lives alongside mortals and call this town home. One girl in particular, strives to have the most normal life of them all. But soon her world is turned upside down when a date goes terribly wrong with an evil magician casting a horrible spell on her closest and best friend, Chet. Now it’s up to Julie and her mystical friends to team up and put a stop to the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

“Prepare, prepare! For the Fates are plotting! From their spinning, two threads are knotting! Beneath the cold moon, their ends draw near! United in love, but divided by fear! Concede your heart to the Universe’s hum! Steel yourself, for the worst is yet to come!”

Moonstruck begins with a conversation between Julie and Chet about Julie’s new romantic excursion. It’s a scene that emphasizes the friendship between the two as they make coffee like a well-oiled machine; the characters’ interaction creating a feeling of comfort alongside the warm color scheme used in the early pages. This is a part that I really loved and appreciate because a lot of my time at my job is spent working in the cafe making drinks. The whole opening pulls you in with that familiarity and I feel nothing, but warmth for the beginning of the comic. This is a scene I’m entirely familiar with that, it’s basically a little slice of home. And the interactions between Julie and Chet are absolutely precious to the point of it showing just how close the two are.

In this graphic novel we follow two main characters. Our first main character is Julie. Julie is a plus-size Latina who works as a barista at the Black Cat Cafe. She also happens to be a werewolf (isn’t that for a twist!)! Not to mention, Julie is a bookworm and it’s the cutest thing to see her talk about books! Julie is also a very sweet character who really cares about her friends and about others, but Julie’s character also holds a lot of issues. For starters, Julie spends a lot of time trying to suppress her werewolf side. While it’s not actually stated, Julie focuses really hard on trying to conceal that part of her and tries to avoid situations that would bring out the wolf in her. Julie also has a lot of anxiety and insecurities. As the story reads on, Julie shows more sides of her anxiety as well as her insecurities; whether it’s with choosing a date or being confident with stating her own thoughts and opinions. My two biggest issues with Julie end up kind of going hand-in-hand. My biggest issue with Julie is the fact that she was made to be “too sensitive” or should I say unnecessarily, sensitive. What I mean is, almost every situation she gets herself in she ends up getting triggered into shifting into a werewolf or she gets so emotionally upset that she ends up having a breakdown. While I love that Julie reps for anxiety, I definitely feel that making her so overly sensitive made her character become annoying as it progresses along with the story-line. On top of that, I also feel like Julie’s character never really had any room to grow as a character and try to work through the issues she was having. Instead, those issues got crowded out by details that didn’t need space devoted to them even if they were fun and makes for a pretty setting. The best example of this is the six full pages spent showing a story from one of Julie’s favorite books, an attempt to create a metaphor for her own emotional journey and refer to her goal of becoming a ghost writer that, frankly, fails to land.

Our second main character, Selena, is also a werewolf and a lady of color like Julie. However, Selena is more open about her werewolf side than Julie is. In fact, Selena radiates confidence in her werewolf form and isn’t afraid to bring out that side of her in times of dire need. To be honest, we don’t get a lot of detail to go off of for Selena’s character. The only thing we really find out about Selena is in the beginning of the book, Julie mentions reading Selena’s favorite series, The Pleasant Mountain Sisters. Outside of this, Selena is a mystery in the beginning, but as our tale begins to unfold…we definitely see different sides of her character. And just like Julie, Selena’s character also has her fair share of issues. For starters, Selena is definitely a plan maker and a “I trust my instincts” kind of person. She also takes charge a lot of the time and takes on the whole “leader” role on her own. She demonstrates this on multiple occasions and it fits her character so nicely. It pairs well with the confidence she radiates for her werewolf form and well with her wanting to deliver results. However, there was a point reached in this book where I definitely started disliking Selena’s character. At about 60-70% of the way through, we end with one of Cass’s visions and it show brief moments of Julie and Selena fighting, but we don’t get a full idea of how bad it really is until a little later on. While some of their fighting is harmless, Selena ends up saying a lot of mean things that are technically insulting towards Julie. Two of these incidents where they’re fighting/arguing end up triggering Julie to shift into her werewolf form. Also, as with Julie, Selena never got any room to really grow as a character or even have an opportunity to explain herself on why she responds the way she does. Any attempt for Selena’s character to grow from the situation or try to elaborate is cut off by too much happening around them or unnecessary scene where Julie is having an outburst to cut off Selena. Either way, it adds up to why I disliked Selena a little less in the end. As a side note, there is a moment where Selena almost had a redemption moment, but the writer cut that part short with other details happening in that section.

Okay, I feel like I ended up going on a negative rant and I swear I really did like this comic. Prime example, the artwork is probably one of my most favorite elements to this comic. Now let me be more specific…I love all the artwork outside of the Pleasant Mountain Sister comic sections. The style and the coloring are just so beautiful and really captures the world building so well. Even part where you thought it would still stick to the bright colors, each panel was so magnificent! There was never a page in this book where I disliked the art style. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

“That’s why they call them h-I-jinks and not h-OUR-jinks, because you’re supposed to keep them to yourself.”

Also, lots of blessings for all the amazing LGBTQIAP+ rep within this paranormal comic! Outside of our obvious dynamic duo of Selena and Julie, we have other characters who also represent the community. We have Chet (who we all love and adore because Chet is a cinnamon roll) who is a non-binary. So happy to finally see some non-binary representation in a book. It feels like the non-binary gets a little overlooked from time to time. We also get a minor character, a minotaur by the name of Manuel who shows interest in Chet. Even though it’s never actually stated, it’s implied during each interaction shared between him and Chet. So many warm fuzzy feels to see so much diversity and representation! Not to mention, the comic also tackles discrimination through the characters’ fantastical elements with the art style really pushing their emotions through gesture, giving the characters energy.

Another favorite thing of mine in this comic was the introduction of a character name Cassandra (Cass, for short) Greenhill. Cass is basically a very powerful witch or an oracle. We don’t know a whole lot about Cass other than she get moments where she has visions that foretell the future. When she has intense visions, her whole form is rendered in black and white, giving the reader an idea of the intensity of them. We also know that she works for a coffee shop called Little Dog 2 where you get the full on witchy vibes (that and all the black cats hanging around, plotting and scheming). She’s just a really fascinating character that was thrown into this whole mixing bowl and I love it. Not to mention she is such a mood. We get this one scene where it’s super early in the morning and Cass looks absolutely exhausted and looks like she wants nothing more than to crawl right back into bed. She is full on mood! I’m just so eager to gain more detail about her and if she got a little spin-off comic, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Her character makes me excited to find out what is going to happen next and to see what the creators have in store for her and the rest of the characters!

“There once was a seer named Cass. Who could see in the future and past. Then the going got tough. She called the Fates’ bluff. And made ripples she could not forecast.”

However, all these positive things in this book doesn’t distract me for the parts that really got under my skin (other than those first couple of issues, sorry!). Besides some of the key details I stated above, I also found other issues that seemed like pointless filler or seemed to get muddled with everything going on. For example, the fact that Lindi was never called out on her b.s. Lindi is basically a character who has severe anger issues who mistreats everyone. She is constantly in the mode of looking for a fight and having “issues” with everyone around her. She’s also a really bad friend with how she treats a minor character, Mark, throughout this comic. She manhandles him, gets really aggressive, and she even gets to a point where one of her snakes looks like it’s crushing Mark in his bat form. How Lindi acts as a character is never challenged, never corrected in anyway, and then at a later point in the story is even turned into a “funny” situation to create a laughing off type of situation. I definitely wasn’t a fan and it definitely didn’t sit right with me.

Another issue that really bothered me was the story-line in the last “two issues” of this comic. The story-line starts out strong, but at some point along the way everything became muddled and it felt like it was getting lost in all the other situations happening in the comic. This is something I stress all the time and I’m going to stress it with this comic, details are fantastic and help build the world as well as having a lot of action, but too much of either of these things and it will be a hot mess. It was borderline hot mess. There were parts of the story-line/plot that had me wondering where certain details were and wondering why we were getting details we didn’t need. Not to mention, nothing was every explained with the magician and the ghost. Nothing was every truly explained on why they were doing what they were doing and nothing was ever hinted at what led them to the point of getting this far. Not to mention it felt like there was barely any build up to the ending and just as quickly as “the final” battle started it was over. It was very anti-climactic and it left something to be desired.

Overall, I did enjoy this graphic novel. There were so many wonderful elements that I loved, so many characters to get attached to, and the diversity was such a big welcome. Plus, paranormal goodness. We get monsters and creatures living side by side mortals/humanity, that was just the cherry on top of my cake. However, there were a lot of issues I had with this book and reflecting on how it made me feel and the times where things felt a little all over the place, this rating definitely took me by surprise. I do encourage any reader to pick this graphic novel up if you’re looking for paranormal fun with plenty of diverse representation. This graphic novel makes for a great quick read and something to help give you a little nudge out of a reading slump.

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5 thoughts on “Moonstruck Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis

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