A few years ago, a team of teenage girls were given the power to fight evil. After a tragic end they went their separate ways. But now, monsters are returning from the depths and the team must come back together. Is it good?
Zodiac Starforce #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Beginning on what appears to be just another day in high school, a young student named Emma finds herself falling asleep in front of her book. She receives a text from her fan Savi (short for Savanna) about a party and promises to be there, when a rumble comes from behind her. Suddenly, a monster bursts through the library doors and attacks Emma. But Emma is no ordinary high schooler, she’s a member of the Zodiac Starforce and possesses power that the monster just isn’t prepared for.
So begins Zodiac Starforce #1, a new offering from Dark Horse comics. Brought to life by writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau, Zodiac Starforce aims at being a callback to to any number of manga titles and animated series that focused on a team of teenage girls with extraordinary gifts. The issue’s lead is Emma, a member of the now defunct Zodiac Starforce. She fits cleanly into one of the tropes made popular by this genre. Emma is the “reasonable one” on the team, who left due to the trauma of the team’s last adventure. While Emma and the other members of the cast never escape their archetypes in this debut issue, Panetta’s script has enough zest to carry it forward.
The only real detriment to the setup in this issue is the fact that Emma and the other girls refer to their split throughout the issue. As a debut, it’s expected that Zodiac Starforce #1 would set up not only the future, but secrets of the past. But the issue gets a little repetitive in informing the reader that something happened that caused Emma to leave the team. It would have been nice for the event to have been brought up once, with proper emphasis, and then left alone for later issues to build on.
If this were a horror movie, the bad stuff would start right about here.
Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork really brings life to the issue. Her character designs are unique, but at the same time, they evoke the sensation of watching Jem and the Holograms or Sailor Moon, with a modern sensibility. It’s also fun comparing the “suited-up” look of the characters versus when they are out of costume. Ganucheau has given each of the girls their own distinct style and then when they power up, they retain the elements of their style but with more vibrant colors. For example, Emma has long curly blonde hair that goes bubblegum pink when she’s powered up. The monster seen here is a little more basic in design, but nicely balances an evil look with the overall style of the book.
Impressively, Ganucheau’s style works just as well in the action sequences as it does in the party scene. The exaggerated facial expressions and body language do a great job maintaining the semblance of a superhero book while also evoking the hyperreal sensation of being in high school. This balance is something that will give Zodiac Starforce an edge on its competition.
Is It Good?
With an energetic script by Kevin Panetta and lovely artwork by Paulina Ganucheau, Zodiac Starforce #1 is a charming debut. While the characters haven’t escaped their tropes yet, there’s enough to keep readers interested. Zodiac Starforce #1 isn’t a comic for everyone, but for fans of the youthful team dynamics seen in animation, this is a comic to look out for.