Saturday, June 4, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Title: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra
           * Collects Issues #1-#4
Author: Kevin Panetta
Illustrator: Paulina Ganucheau
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Pages: Paperback; 136
Recommended Age Group: 13+ (Fantasy Violence)
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Source: Purchased

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!

Please pardon me while I squeal in delight! I've been waiting for ages for this trade to release, so that I could lovingly devour it. Wait... is it possible to devour something lovingly? No matter. That's what I did. I savored this graphic novel. See, Paulina Ganucheau's art is some of my favorite out there. It's candy colored delight, with a side of massive girl power. It's big hair, Sailor Moon type outfits, and the type of ass kicking that I can definitely get behind. It's friendship incarnate. In other words, Zodiac Starforce is my kind of series.

What's interesting about Kevin Panetta's story line, is that this isn't your typical "magical girl squad" lead in. Normally we'd be lead in with the girls getting their powers, learning to use them, and figuring out how to be a team. In this case, all of that has already happened. In fact, Emma and her crew have already saved the world. Or, so they think. What they're really trying to do is just reconcile their lives. What do you do after the dust has cleared, lives have been lost, and suddenly you're back in high school? Biology tests and all.

The story suffers just a little bit because of this. I knew going in that the story arc would start here, but I can see a lot of new readers feeling a bit lost at the fact that there's no solid start. Emma's world comes crashing onto the page, quite literally, out of nowhere. Her back story is partially laid out, as the story progresses. Still, there's never that super solid footing that you might normally get with a story like this. That's not to say that the story line, as it stands, isn't brilliant. It is. You just need to be prepared for it.

Again, back to the artwork, because I truly believe that's one of the biggest things Zodiac Starforce has going for it. Paulina Ganucheau is talented. Her art makes this magical squad of girls into something both real, and otherwordly at the same time. If you're debating at all about picking this up, let me tell you that the panels themselves are worth it. Watching these girls interact, watching them battle (while of course yelling their special battle powers at the top of their lungs), and watching them grow, are all worth it.

I have a soft spot in my heart for stories that feature friendship. For stories that scream GIRL POWER! to the world, and aren't the least bit sorry about it. That's why I love these ladies. If you're a fan of Sailor Moon, of candy colored worlds, and of girl squads who kick some ass, this is your kind of series.


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