If you think dating is a torture worse than a root canal, try dating as a fantasy creature. It scores worse. Lumberjanes creator Grace Ellis teams up with Shae Beagle to bring us a new book about monsters, romance, magic, and nothing to do with that Cher/Nicolas Cage movie (though I would be open to a Easter egg or two about Loretta and Ronny in future issues), Moonstruck, from Image Comics.
Julie is your average queer barista balancing work and a flirtation with the unseen Serena. But she's far from average, as she just happens to turn into a werewolf when the going gets real tough. Her best friend Chet is a centaur, and her neighbors Matt and Lindi are a bat and a Medusa-like crankypants, respectively. Chet and Julie's lives are not just the coffee shop and their respective flirtations (Chet's got a thing for a bull named Manuel whose greatest skills are looks and bad puns), and a visit to mutual friend Cass reveals visions of a hellmouth to come.
Don't quit your day job, honey
The timing for release of this series is perfect: the whimsy makes it ideal beach comics reading (though I am of the belief that anything you bring to the beach is a beach read). You can trust that Moonstruck will handle Julie and Serena's blossoming romance with grace and sensitivity, based on the queer experiences throughout Lumberjanes. Deft, witty, dialogue clues you in immediately to the level of Julie and Chet's friendship. You don't need pages to get to know them, they're your friends you see when you pick up your daily latte. I'm curious to know more about Matt and Lindi and what happened with their band, that weird prophecy from Cass, what led Julie to shapeshift (why is it only when she's upset?), and of course, to meet Serena and all her secrets and charms. It's hard in a first issue to onboard all your characters and get a story started. Some writers go for one over the other, and story was the winner for this first book. It works here (we're all set for what happens in issue #2), but I hope Ellis doesn't fall prey to a problem I noticed with Paper Girls throwing anything and everything into the plot to find what works, relegating character development to an afterthought.
This is also a book that celebrates body positivity. Julie is by no means a size 2 but doesn't let insecurity about that keep her from her flirtations. The choice of different mythological creatures—centaur, minotaur, Medusa, bat—reinforces the idea that all bodies are beautiful. Once again, this is due to the skill of Ellis at educating and entertaining in equal trade.
Praise is also due to Shae Beagle and Lauren McCubbin's colors and design, tailored with skill and style to setting—muted earth tones for Chet and Serena in the coffee shop (perhaps suggesting the monotony of the workday), brighter colors for Serena's interactions in the outside world, broad diagonal lines for panels where Lindi and Matt argue, deep purples and greens for the meeting with Cass to suggest the dark and supernatural, and heavier earth tones when Julie turns to werewolf. Other art touches show Julie's twenty-something normality—roots in her blond hair, slightly messy eyebrows—someone who is working towards Having It All but really, who has time for that sort of tomfoolery?
I don't think they're hugging this one out
I can't think of a better home for Moonstruck than Image, a company that celebrates "Every Comic Its Reader" with the breadth and depth of books it publishes, as well as the commitment to representation in characters and stories. The team has its room to tell the story the way they want it to be told, whether that's awkward dates or a weird end of the world premonition, or even perhaps both.