One of my friends, Sarah Stern, is a comic artist. For her day job, mostly, she is a colorist and she is amazing (for real – check out her website!). Recently, Sarah announced that she will be doing the coloring for Zodiac Starforce: Cries of the Fire Prince. Obviously, that meant I had to immediately run out and read all the previous Zodiac Starforce comics to prepare for the Sarah Stern Coming. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more.
Are you familiar with the Magical Girl trope? It’s one of my favorites. And, actually, one of the tropes with the widest popularity across all demographics. Magical Girls are girls empowered by various means with magical powers which assist, improve, and complicate their lives, but they always manage to persevere. Magical Girl Warriors go out and battle dramatic evil with some flair. And by flair, I mean with mystic powers and amazing outfits. Sound familiar? Yup– the same trope as Sailor Moon (yes, and Pretty Cure and Cardcaptor Sakura, I know).
Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra is a wonderful modern rendition of the Magical Girl Warrior trope. A bright, bubbly, action story which defies stereotypes on so many levels. Our quartet of heroines is quite diverse. The story picks up two years after the Zodiac Starforce girls saved the world and are now trying to just live out their lives. We begin both in the middle of the story and at the start of a new one. Monsters are returning, it seems like the school’s mean girl Queen Bee could be more than she appears to be, and the girls need to figure out how to rebuild their friendships after the last battle broke them apart. Will they be able to get it together to save the world?!
I adore the art and coloring of this graphic novel. Reminiscent of Jem and the Holograms, we have soft outlines with a bold palette of colors giving them a modern look. The art is a bit retro but in a respectful and intentional way. As our girls are diverse physically, their outfits represent them as much as the Zodiac Starforce team. This is a refreshing change from identical school girl outfits for thin high school girls. Instead, the personality of each character comes through in their costume design. For example, sporty, bisexual Savanna sports sneakers and a baseball cap. But aggressive, punk Kimberly dons elbow pads and a short jacket with spikes around the collar. Each outfit is unique and practical, but the uniform look of the Zodiac Starforce girls persists.
What I appreciate the most about this graphic novel is the focus on friendship. Yes, these girls are working to save the world– but they are also working to save their friendships. Mending and developing relationships with others is a challenging task. Panetta’s dialogue illustrates these challenges clearly while not taking away from the overall evil-defeating plot line. Because, I mean, they *are* magical girl warriors, afterall. They need to be best friends AND save the world. But instead of insta-BFFs like the core girls in Sailor Moon, we have complex, realistic relationships between these girls which need some work to get right.
A smart, colorful, and creative read, I strongly recommend Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra to all fans of the magical girl trope, and to anyone looking to discover a heartwarming story of maintaining friendship against all odds.
Interested in webcomics?
Check out Sarah’s webcomic Cindersong here!
What do you think?
- What books have you picked up because someone you know is involved in the book creation somehow? (author, editor, publisher, artist, etc…)
- Do you enjoy the Magical Girl Warrior trope? Why or why not?
- What was the last graphic novel/comic/manga you read?
- Do you prefer reading comics/manga in a collection, such as this trade paperback, or as individual issues? Why?