Coffeeshop AUs are a popular fanfic genre, transposing characters into an alternate universe (AU) where everyone works or hangs out in a coffeeshop. Often focusing on a queer love story, it’s a very millennial scenario: service industry workers, freelancers, and misfits meeting over lattes and wifi to form new families in the big city. Moonstruck is an original take on the genre, starring a young werewolf barista named Julie.
Written by co-creator Grace Ellis and drawn by newcomer Shae Beagle (pencilshaevings on Tumblr), the first issue is a lighthearted introduction to the urban fantasy setting. Julie works at a coffeeshop alongside her centaur friend Chet, and she’s stressed about planning her first date with a girl named Selena. Unlike the more typical role of lycanthropy-as-puberty, Julie’s werewolf side seems to represent her anxiety, with fur and fangs bursting forth when she gets stressed.
Beagle’s art is warm and expressive, fitting the low-stakes tone of the first issue. (The plot summary hints at world-saving antics in future issues, but for now, it’s more of a Friends-style coffee shop drama.) They also use a wide range of body shapes, a notable detail considering how many comics follow the same supermodel silhouette for every female character.
I bring up the “coffeeshop AU” comparison because Moonstruck satisfies the same desires. It’s casually queer, with a diverse cast of characters who tease and support each other in a comforting way. The protagonist Julie is a fangirl, bonding with her love-interest over a series of Babysitters’ Club-style comics, harking back to the kind of books that inspired Ellis’s work on Lumberjanes.
This kind of sincerity will feel a little hokey to some readers (“My gender identity today is terrible puns,” jokes Chet the centaur), but it’s refreshing to see from a mainstream print publisher like Image, rather than remaining in the realm of Tumblr and webcomics. Moonstruck #1 is out on July 19, and it’s worth checking out if you enjoy fun slice-of-life comics like Jughead and Giant Days.