Comics Reviews

“I Am NOT Starfire” Isn’t As Great As Actual Manga

Since the release of the trailer for I am NOT Starfire, my feed has been filled with negative backlash at the book that wasn’t even released. While I looked into the criticism to understand why it was it gave me an understanding of the changing landscape of comic book readers. So I read the book, while enjoyable it lacked any real depth.

I am NOT Starfire, written by Mariko Tamaki and art by Yoshi Yoshitani, is about Starfire’s daughter Mandy. She doesn’t have powers, isn’t thin or famous like her mother. Mandy has walked out on her SATs, has a crush on a girl at school, and wants to move to France after high school, except her mother doesn’t know any of this.

Mandy as a character is relatable but her character arc is forced. Throughout the story, I found her annoying at times. I also understood her struggles with society coming from a different culture. It’s worth noting that she only has a mild understanding of her own culture. She goes out of her way to keep her mother out of her life. Normal teenage rebellion but the cause of this seems to be the world’s comparing her to Starfire.

At a certain point, it’s revealed that Mandy doesn’t speak french but yet, it brings up early on her plan is to move to France. This gives her a sense of ignorance similar to what Emily in Paris did. You would need a decent grasp of the language to get by in France. It’s worth noting there isn’t a single mention of Starfire’s language mimicry ability.

Starfire on the other hand has been made more family-friendly in regards to her backstory. While this is a stand-alone story with no ties to any other DC comic, it takes away a certain amount of depth from her. As a mother, Starfire is everything fans expected of her. She tries her best for Mandy’s well-being but there’s only so much you can do for a rebellious teen. In regards to her single mother status, the comic struggles to show Starfire as a good parent.

Blackfire, Starfire’s older sister, plays a prominent role in the final act of this graphic novel. This felt like a convenient villain to help wrap up the story more than anything else. One of the key examples of this is when Blackfire captures Mandy and Starfire, she takes them to Mandy’s school for the final showdown. At no point was there a mention of how she found out about Mandy or knew what was going on earth. She is simply a stand-in to show Mandy who the real opposite of Starfire is.

The artwork is beautiful and romantic at times. However, there are times when beauty gets in the way of scenes that are meant to invoke fear or thrill. This artwork could easily be put up as murals on a teenager’s bedroom wall. Having this distinctive art style isn’t a bad thing but the art itself was diverse enough to encourage the emotions it was trying to. For example, in Sailor Moon, the art style of the manga constantly switched back and forth. This gave the reader funny moments, jaw-dropping revelations, and even moments of devastating sadness.

As negative as I’ve been, the truth is this is a great comic to get young readers into graphic novels, comics, or even manga. As an adult, I struggle to see the appeal. There are way better comics and mangas that tell similar stories, however, those have a higher content rating. Mandy as a character is completely fine when it comes to her insecurities and issues. She doesn’t take an active role in the story, making the story feel like it drags on at points. Tamaki is a great writer but I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to follow her career. Yoshitani on the other hand is an excellent artist and I look forward to coming across her work in the future.

If you are looking for manga for teenagers, I would recommend Paradise Kiss, Princess Jellyfish, Sailor Moon, and Assassination Classroom. If you have any other recommendations, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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Sky Mevada

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