If you’re following comics pretty closely then you know that just about every publisher is coming out with a “magic girl” book of some kind. Last week saw the release of Power Up from BOOM! Studios and while the book should have been for me, it wasn’t. A man who owns three Sailor Moon shirts should love your book, but I didn’t. I respect Samantha’s review of the book, but I largely found the book to be agenda filled and pandering to fans of Sailor Moon the O.G. magic girl. Where Power Up missed the mark completely, Zodiac Starforce hit the nail on the head. After about three pages in I took a deep sigh of relief because after reading Power Up, I was rather scared of what all these other magic girl books would have in store. Zodiac Starforce manages to understand the genre and not just the “we transform, look at our costumes” understanding that seems to be all that was gleamed from the genre by others. Because at the end of the day the genre is only successful if the character’s relationships are also successful.
What’s also a nice touch for this story is that there’s a past that we’re not witnessing. By that I mean it’s mentioned and clearly a part of the story’s history, but we’re not going to read about it in detail because we’re in the present of this story and that’s the past. I think this was a major plus for the story since it cheats the relationships in a way, our characters already have history with each other, they already know how to use their powers and they’re just facing a new challenge.
And let’s be honest, that’s better. If you’ve read any magic girl stories then you know that they all struggle to present something that’s not Sailor Moon, because SM did it first and did it the best.
Instead we start with one character who becomes the focal point of the story. Emma is studying in the library until she hears a noise followed by a shadowy monster that breaks through the walls. She doesn’t panic, but she does get to better ground so she can transform and pull a light sword out of her chest. She fights the monster until being forced to jump out a window. Thankfully her friend Kim happens to be outside following up on an investigation of a missing girl. She’s rather excited about the monster and transforms to help. Through their dialogue it becomes clear that the team has retired after facing a great challenge and that Kim has sought to continue the Starforce while the others have tried to move away from it all.
Writer Kevin Panetta manages to give the reader a complete and full idea of the character’s personalities and thankfully they’re not just homage. In fact, they’re pretty convincing teenagers, at least convincing enough for a story like this because who wants to hear actual teenagers talk? No one, no one. If you think that you do then find some teenagers in a restaurant or mall and listen to them for five minutes, you’ll instantly change your mind and wonder how any of us make it out of adolescence with our brains intact. Panetta also crafts an interesting story with a lot going on. There’s treads of stories hinted at and plenty of characters introduced to be used later on. Frankly he does a wonderful job of world building without it being an info dump or full of exposition. You know what else he gets right? The character’s relationships. I already care about these young women and their plight that the story will lead us through.
Where the story truly, truly shines is the artwork by Paulina Ganucheau. Zodiac Starforce is a beautiful book, but it’s not just beautiful, it actually tells a story. The visuals are wonderful. Ganucheau’s style is bubbly and energetic, but the visuals guide us through the narrative just as much as the dialogue.
I would honestly describe the art as candy if that wasn’t really dumb sounding, but yes I would eat this book if it were candy. The character designs help this book stand out because the teenagers actually look and dress like teenagers. Be it mostly fashion forward teenagers, but teens none the less. The coloring is absolutely perfect for the story and Paulina is assisted by Savanna Ganucheau who I would assume has some family relation. The coloring is bright and wonderful making the book stand out and also ring true to the genre.
Frankly I don’t know if any of those other publishers really need a magic girl comic after reading Zodiac Starforce. This book is pretty damn perfect and the perfect pallet cleanser after reading other attempts at the genre. More than likely I’ll still check out any other magic girl book because I’m a huge mark for Sailor Moon, but Zodiac Starforce has set the bar extremely high.