In the world of comics, there is one great constant: the superhero. Tasked with protecting the world/the universe/their area of Manhattan, the hero brings order where there is chaos and hope where there is darkness. Many of the geeky set grew up idolizing and learning from such heroes, who helped show what was good and righteous in a world where all too often, things could be just the opposite. For those of us raised on the bubbly wonder of manga superheroines like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura , it can be difficult to find western comics that evoke the kind of feelings these beautiful books did. Look no further, though, for Zodiac Starforce is here to save the day!
Beginning as a Tumblr webcomic in 2013, Zodiac Starforce grew up on the internet. Even before the first issue of the comic series was released to stores, the series had built up a devoted fanbase. This can be credited partially to its beautiful and bright art style, courtesy of series artist Paulina Ganucheau, while writer Kevin Panetta breathes life into the gorgeous characters. The pair worked together to create the distinct look and feel of the series over several years before settling on the current look. Fan artists and cosplayers alike have created their own tributes to the series for years. There are even fan tattoos!
With all this hype for a small and unfinished webcomic, it’s no surprise that a major publisher would be interested in the Zodiac Starforce story. The release to comic book form—a complete story arc of four issues—was announced in March of 2015. Published by Dark Horse Comics, the mini-series boasted cover art from big names like Kevin Wada, Babs Tarr, and Noelle Stevenson, which brought welcome attention to the small title.
The story is reminiscent of many manga classics: normal teenagers are called upon by an awesome power to save the universe from evil with their newfound magic powers. In this story, however, we meet the Starforce team two years after they’ve seemingly defeated their own Big Bad, the dark goddess Cimmeria. The team, composed of four 16-year-old girls, is beginning to settle into their daily lives as normal girls, and they’ve begun to grow apart. When a new threat appears in the form of the evil Diana and her mean girl minions, the team has to come together once again.
One of the most wonderful things about the story is that the characters are all human and diverse. From Emma’s sense of loss after the death of her mother to Kim’s struggle with growing apart from her friends, the characters each feel very fleshed-out, with clear and distinct motivations that don’t feel forced or archetypal. Even Diana, the villain of the story, is painted as a character with nuance and an all-too-human urge to be reunited with her friends, by any means necessary. Beyond the strong characterization, the cast is diverse both racially and in terms of orientation (without spoiling anything, one of the major plot points revolves around a member of the Starforce saving the world with the power of love).
All in all, Zodiac Starforce is a perfect choice for those of us who have grown up but are still looking to recapture the feeling of classic magical girl manga and anime. Magical girl stories, at their best, can bring us a sense of hope and belonging, while reminding us of the power of love and friendship to brighten our worlds. Zodiac Starforce’s first (and hopefully not last!) trade paperback, Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra, delivers on this promise of joy, all for a great price. Contact your local comic book store to order a copy today!
Special thanks to Paulina Ganucheau for her help in finding some of the best in Zodiac Starforce cosplay and fan tributes!