Writer: Suzanne Walker
Artist: Wendy Xu
Letterer: Joamette Gil
Publisher: Lion Forge
Perhaps it’s the warmly-colored gutters or the autumnal color palette employed across its panels, but the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Mooncakes is — as you might have guessed from the headline — warm. Illustrated by Wendy Xu and written by Suzanne Walker with letters by Joamette Gil, this graphic novel edition of a beloved, magical webcomic is an utterly delightful read about magic, occult rituals, young love, and family ties.
The story follows Nova Huang, a young, powerful witch who works in her grandmothers’ spell book shop. When her childhood friend and crush Tam Lang, a genderqueer werewolf, returns to their hometown and reunites with Nova, the pair have to fight a giant horse demon in the woods, figure out who (or what) is controlling it, and face their feelings for each other head-on.
In addition to all-new art by Xu, the Mooncakes graphic novel also features a more fleshed-out story for both Nova and Tam. The overall flow is also different, as the graphic novel is a wholly different format from a serialized webcomic; for fans of the original, this is certainly noticeable, but not in a bad way. Mooncakes is a world so rich and full that learning more feels like a gift; the love the creators have for these characters is palpable and the emotional stakes are incredibly high. When things get dark, they get really dark, with those warm gutters turning to a darker color to invoke fear.
Mooncakes plays with color and layout in really beautiful ways. Each chapter heading maintains the tone of the moment at hand without distracting from the story, and the focus on facial expressions is well-balanced against wider establishing shots, action sequences, and memories that are sometimes blurrier than the present.
Xu also doesn’t shy away from Nova’s hearing aids, which are a bright color that always contrasts against her dark hair. In an interview with The Beat published in August, Walker said that Nova’s hearing loss is based on her own disability; centering a queer woman of color with a visible disability in this story without making her hearing loss a plot device is fantastic. Likewise, centering a genderqueer person of color and an older lesbian couple brings several layers of representation to the story that feel natural and also allow readers of all kinds to see themselves in the Mooncakes characters.
If you are looking for an all-ages LGBTQ story about magic, friendship, romance, familial power, and forest spirits (!), look no further than Mooncakes.
Disclaimer: The Beat is owned by Polarity, which also owns Lion Forge Comics.