Moonstruck: Some Enchanted Evening
Moonstruck: Some Enchanted Evening is the first direct-to-graphic-novel entry in the hipster fantasy series (although the first issue of this storyline, #6 in the series, was released on its own before plans changed), and the second volume in the series.
I was looking forward to it. I liked the idea of the setup (since I read the single issue), in which a frat house used fairy magic to give their parties a better atmosphere, in spite of the magic trapping people inside. However, as with the first book, I found the read frustratingly insubstantial. I wanted there to be more there, but it felt as soon as something interesting happened, the story would drift away into something else.
At the same time, there was too much going on, with one character nattering on about his Pokemon-like card creature and some kind of dragon band blackmail and a vampire retail worker and a fairy party showdown and another character trying to write a comic script — it’s rarely a good sign when comic creators start having their characters make comics, since it rapidly risks becoming too navel-gaze-y.
As written by Grace Ellis and drawn by Shae Beagle, I like the cast. The world is compelling, with Chet the centaur barista and Julie the coffee shop werewolf and her crush/girlfriend Selena. But I find it hard to get a read on their personalities beyond the obvious — Chet is over-energetic and Julie is much too insecure. I’m not clear on why these characters would go to this party, and they seem to feel the same, as they promptly decide to leave once they meet the frat bros throwing it. Then they repeat a fairly important mistake in a later chapter.
The chapters jump around, probably because of the originally planned serialization. I suspect it wasn’t rewritten when plans changed. Carried over from the previous book, Magic to Brew, there are occasional pages from a fake franchise the characters like reading tossed in (illustrated by Kat Fajardo). I find them distracting and not as useful a device to show what Julie is thinking about as the creators might wish. For some reason, one fight sequence is told in single-word rhymes, which is just too precious and doesn’t help the reader (at least, this reader) know what’s going on amongst the bubble panels.
I’m probably too old for this comic. I never frequent coffee shops, and the characters all seem painfully naive to me. My favorite part of the book was a panel where someone says, “Damn the band, save the vampire” and that’s only because I loved Empire Records. (If you don’t know that movie, it’s not explained and not required to understand to know what else is going on in the comic.)
Grace Ellis is credited as a co-creator of Lumberjanes, and this feels like a similar attempt, with a slightly older cast and intended audience. As with that series, the mythical framework is more important than any particular plot element. Instead, its sprawling nature and ever-growing cast provide plenty of hooks for imagination and spinoffs. To those who love the series, it’s more important to see someone like them or someone they like than what exactly happens with any of them. It’s about recognition and representation, not straightforward storytelling.
The third installment of Moonstruck, Troubled Waters, is due this summer. (The publisher provided a review copy.)