The BSU Scooby Gang has a mystery on their hands! Even as our story progresses towards a supernatural crime caper, this comic does not lose any of its sense of whimsy or innocence in dialogue or artwork. (Warning: mild spoilers contained herein.)
Written by Grace Ellis
Illustrated by Shae Beagle
Colored by Caitlin Quirk
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
It’s Nancy Drew and the Case of the Pilfered Posterior. Chet’s butt was stolen by some nasty street magicians at the end of the previous issue, and he’s (rightfully) depressed about it. In what has to be a second date story for the ages, Julie and Selena go hunting for the missing bottom at the Blitheton State University homecoming parade, resplendent with supernatural student organizations and UFOs. They may not be able to get Chet’s booty back there, but they have to start somewhere….
Where, oh where, has Chet the Centaur’s butt gone? Where, oh where, can it be? (That has to be the strangest two sentences I have ever written.) Picking right up after the events of the previous issue, Julie is on the hunt for a missing item, which she deftly combines with a second date with Selena. (So much for dinner and a movie, but in this world, dinner and a movie would be just plain out of place.) Herein lies the genius of Grace Ellis: the ability to weave in mystery, fantasy, humor, and romance to equal degrees, while keeping a very whimsical, supernatural world rather relatable to the human experience. You may not be able to relate to being a centaur with a missing bottom, but there’s something in this world you can relate to: a second date, determination in helping your friends, an awkward homecoming parade, even a general disdain of pants. (I hear you, Chet.)
I’m still struggling to figure out the place for the brief interludes with the Pleasant Mountain Sisters. In the first issue, this was the book Julie was reading on her break, so it made sense to see a page or two. In this issue (as with the previous issue) these one page brief peeks just appear randomly, without serving to advance the story. It’s awkward, and unless there’s some direct connection to the plot at ahdn, I hope it goes away soon.
(I also agree with the sentiment from a fellow reader in the letters at the back of this issue about wanting to see more of the world of Blitheton community. We get a nice taste of this with the homecoming parade, but with a story in place, this next issue is as good of a time as any to go exploring. Happily Ellis responds and indicates that this is coming!)
Shae Beagle’s deft hand and Caitlin Quirk’s colors make this a soft pastel joy to behold, amplifying its fantastical universe. Shading is soft, gradual, kind. Hair flows as if underwater or ruffled by a light breeze. It’s Betsey Johnson fashion, taken down a few notches: still fun, but not in-your-face intense fun. This is like a comfort food comic you can read on a rainy autumn day with a cup of tea, or if you’re feeling depressed about the state of the world and need some self-care from your funny books, a comic hug, if you will. Cass the Clairvoyant Barista is also back and full on Kiki’s Delivery Service witchy woman with the iconic big red bow and mermaid hair. She’s this world’s Kate Bush or Stevie Nicks, and I love it. Even our villainous ghosts look pretty and happy and surprisingly like toothpaste. In testament to their skill, Beagle and Quirk make the switch from pastel to a bolder palette of line and color for the Pleasant Mountain Sisters page, misgivings about its proper place in the comic aside, it’s done really well with the proper amount of late 80s/early 90s fashion brightness and boldness.
Now that I’m settled into story and character, I’m also discovering all sorts of Easter eggs in the art, such as Chet’s holy trinity of Dolly, Barbra, and Godzilla posters in his bedroom. (And a fine holy trinity that is, if I may say so.) Be sure to look close at each panel for little gems like these. If you’re reading this on Comixology, take advantage of the guided reading option to dig down into each panel after you read the full page.Continued below
While lettering plays well with the art, I’m not loving how small most it is. Perhaps it’s a statement on my aging eyes, but these letters are just way too small for their word balloons. It’s obscuring the great dialogue! Action lettering is done well here — rounded and soft to fit the gentle overall mood, even in fight scenes. Borderless, creatively shaped panels, allowing action to flow free on a page without border constraints. Panel backgrounds also play a role in setting mood (possibly for the first time, I don’t remember seeing this tactic in the past two issues) on a page where Chet is contemplating fighting his literal and metaphorical ghosts, the page background progresses from white at the top to solid black at the bottom, as he wrestles with this decision.
Now, since I’ll be sticking around for a while, I guess I’d better go pay that BSU tuition bill and my Little Dog 2 balance…
Final Verdict: 8.3 – There’s a few plot hiccups and my aging eyes could do with some larger lettering, but by the third date, one often has a good sense of where the relationship is going and “Moonstruck” and I are set for commitment.