Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

September 23, 2017
Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra Book Cover Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra
Zodiac Starforce, #1-4
Keven Panetta
Graphic Novel
Dark Horse Books
March 9th, 2016
Trade Paperback
136
Library
Paulina Gancheau

They're an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren't just combating math tests. They're also battling monsters--not your typical afterschool activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself--and the world--from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship--with plenty of magical-girl fighting action--delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics! 

Collects Zodiac Starforce #1-#4

(via Goodreads)

 

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?

22 Comments

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer September 23, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Great review Jackie! <3 I was glad you explained the magical girl trope… I do appreciate how they tried to diversify the girls and give each of them their own spin. And such different girls should get along but of course there will be real difficulties with them all being so different. I love when relationships are expressed so realistically. But why 3 stars? I didn't really get any criticism or taste differences?!

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Good point there, Dani! I was so excited to be sharing about the content and my connection with the series that I seem to have failed to criticize anything. Oops!

      As this was issues 1-4, I was a bit more forgiving, but I feel like we only touched the surface when it came to what is really happening here. The pacing felt good, but there were SO MANY details missing. I wanted to know more about absolutely everything. And while I appreciate how we start in the middle of a story, I didn’t feel like I got enough background of what happened before to really feel connected. The story telling just was missing something I craved.

      I have high hopes that the next trade paperback, the one my friend Sarah actually colored for, will be even better. 🙂

  • Laila@BigReadingLife September 23, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    This does look like fun – I love the colors of the artwork and the diversity of the girls. Do their particular zodiac signs give them unique powers? I’m not a diehard graphic novel/comics reader, so I don’t know if I was familiar with the Magical Girl trope – but now that I think of it, would Buffy the Vampire Slayer fall under that? (I was a huge fan of the show.)

    • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Each girl has something they specialize in, but it’s unclear if the Zodiac themselves provides that power. I’m going to assume that is the case? I am not fluent enough in astrology to really pick up on the subtlies… O_o

      Buffy the Vampire Slayer is totally a variation on the magical girl warrior trope. I think Buffy is super interesting too, because I twists the trope and yet also subverts the horror genre it’s seeped into. But, let’s be honest, Joss Wheadon is just a trope king that he takes every single one and twists it on it’s head in order to make his works even more engaging. …Wow. Now I really want to go watch Buffy again!

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity September 24, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Ah, this sounds so cute! And it’s awesome that you know someone who will be a part of this series 😀

    When I was a kid I loved Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors, but I have to say that I haven’t read or watched much Magical Girl stuff recently :O Although I keep hearing about awesome anime and comics about Magical Girls so I think I need to up my game!

    As for your questions… the last manga I read was Love Stage volume seven, which was the last of the series. Unfortunately I didn’t really like it. The series started off pretty strong for me, but overall there were a lot of problematic elements (which is, sadly, quite typical of m/m manga), and the last volume most of all.

    I do prefer to read comics and manga in their full published volumes! It just feels more completed that way!

    • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      I am super excited about it too! There’s nothing like having a personal connection to the works you are reading/viewing. 🙂

      It’s hard for me to stay on top of what’s happening in the world of manga/anime, let alone specifically within the genre of Magical Girl Warriors. If you come up with anything new and exciting, please let me know!

      I’m so sorry that Love Stage didn’t quite work out for you. I completely understand– I also find that m/m manga doesn’t always meet my need. Wow. I think the last one I read might have been Banana Fish? It’s been YEARS then…

      Yes! Trade paperbacks or omnibuses are my lifeblood when it comes to this. I hate waiting for the next volume. I’m used to instant gratification, I guess?

  • KrystiYAandWine September 24, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    I haven’t ventured into the Comic verse yet, but there are a couple I want to read. With the magical girl warriors and gorgeous artwork, I’m definitely intrigued by this one. I’ll definitely have to check this out. I also want to read Runaways by Rainbow Rowell.

    • Jackie B September 26, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      OHMYGOSH HOW DID I NOT KNOW RAINBOW ROWELL WAS WRITING A MARVEL COMIC?! My life has been completely changed. Particularly since I just finished my review for Attachments, which I *thought* was my last Rowell work (at least until Almost Midnight is released November 2nd…). I couldn’t be happier. You made my day.

      • KrystiYAandWine September 27, 2017 at 7:51 am

        YYYAASSS! And it sounds amazing! The first part is out. I got the e-version but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Let me know if you read it!

        • Jackie B September 27, 2017 at 8:37 am

          I will certainly read it eventually. I adore her works. I wonder how she’ll do with a different medium like comics? Intrigued.

          • KrystiYAandWine September 27, 2017 at 10:25 pm

            I think comics are a natural progression for her, since she’s always been such a fan of them herself, but we shall see! I’m excited!

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks September 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Here do you find these!! I love reading these on your blog! In fact, I even tried following your example and requested a translated manga on Edelweiss. Very excited to read it.
    And I ABSOLUTELY love the magical girl trope. I grew up with Sailormoon, after all 🙂 and drew many rip off mangas when I was a teen myself 😀 beat trope ever! I think we dig the magical girl trope so much because when we were growing up, it was THE ONLY thing that empowered girls. That’s the only trope that made us the saviors.
    ACTUALLY, I SHOULD WRITE A POST ABOUT THAT.
    Anyway, I only have a slot in December so let’s hope I don’t forget the vibe till then 😀
    Also, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. Please watch it! It’s right there after Sailormoon for me, and Sailormoon only wins because it’s Sailormoon and it made me who I am. Jeanne is more of a teen magical girl anime, it’s a little bit dark and very twisted. It had an amazing plot. And sooooo many feels.

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Hahaha. I adore you. I’m super excited that you found a translated manga to read via Edelweiss! I hope that you enjoy it. They can be so much fun! In this case, my friend Sarah is the colorist for the next edition Cries of the Fire Prince. So, I thought I’d start at the beginning before reading her works.

      You should TOTALLY write a post about that! I wouldn’t say that the magical girl trope was the *only* thing which empowered girls when we were growing up, but it was certainly one of the most prominent. I would love to read that post, for sure.

      Oooh, Magic Thief Jeanne?! Isn’t that the one with the girl who is Joan of Arc reborn? I should totally watch it. I also really want to watch the remake of Sailor Moon. It’s been years since I’ve been it. I could use a refresher. 🙂

      • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks October 2, 2017 at 3:00 am

        Yes yes Joan of Arc! Please please watch it!! Pleaaaaase! We can rewatch it together maybe xD and then fangirl. Also, the magical girl trope *might* have been the only empowering thing for girls where I come from. Keep in mind I was already around when the country belonged to the USSR. Things were slower here in certain regards.

        • Jackie B October 6, 2017 at 10:47 pm

          Oh my gosh. Just like your Twitch session?! Can we do something like that across the world with just our computers or something?! WE TOTALLY SHOULD. I am all about co-watching this anime and fangirling about books and history and magical-girl warriors. Now, we just need to outsmart the technology…

          Right. I just recently read Between Shades of Gray— holy crap, your country has had some ROUGH times. If you haven’t read Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce (Alanna: The First Adventure is book one; don’t judge it by it’s title) you need to. It was the MG fantasy I needed in my life to empower me. The whole series is great about female empowerment. <3 <3 <3

  • LizScanlon September 29, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Oh my word, but there is a lot of pink here! 😀
    But not to judge something by its appearance- it does sound like it has substance and I have to agree, the illusrations are actually wonderful! 🙂

    • Jackie B September 29, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Hahaha! There is *definitely* a lot of pink! I think that’s one of the reasons they selected my friend Sarah as the colorist for the next collection of Zodiac Starforce comics– she is the current Colorist for Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink, the Pink Ranger comic. This girl knows pink!

  • Jamie October 2, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I had never heard of this series before but I grew up on Sailor Moon and other magical girl anime! The series sounds great and the art is super cute! I really like that the girls all look very different and have outfits that reflect their personalities! I’ll definitely be checking this one out soon. 🙂

    • Jackie B October 8, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Thank you, Jamie! This is a really fun graphic novel, and I’m quite looking forward to the next collection — Cries of the Fire Prince looks like it hails back to the “ultra pretty” bad guys from Sailor Moon. I can’t wait to read it.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I look forward to reading your eventual review of Zodiac Starforce!

  • Grab the Lapels October 17, 2017 at 10:35 am

    There’s a fat girl

    Also, woo, butt farts?? Is this the kind of kid who will be coming to my college in the next few years?

    • Grab the Lapels October 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Aww, my emojis didn’t make it through. I had a lovey face and an annoyed face.

      • Jackie B October 18, 2017 at 8:41 am

        XD XD XD Probably this kid will be sitting in the back of class sleeping. Do you teach required classes? Because, if you don’t, perhaps he’ll never make it in… 😉

        I’m sorry your emojis didn’t come through! What a shame. I love the fart emoji, personally…

        And yes! Horray for body type diversity in this graphic novel!!! That’s one of the things which drew me towards it in the first place.

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