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Zodiac Starforce #1

zodiacstarforcecover1Kevin Panetta, writer
Paulina Ganucheau, artist
Dark Horse $3.99

Reviewd by Jon A Adams

This series totally has a “Sailor Moon” vibe to it. It’s not surprising that an interview following the story reveals the creators are big fans of that series and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It shows.

The story starts with a bang at the La Reina Public High School library in Alexandria, West Virginia, where Emma fell asleep studying for her biology exam. Her ringing cell phone wakes her, and not a minute too soon, as a giant, grey blobby monster with huge, toothy maw and sharp-taloned hands bursts through and attacks. Emma powers up into her Starforce uniform and runs to a window, crashing through to lead the creature into the open. On the ground below she encounters Kim, a tom-boyish fellow Starforce member, who is itching to get the team back together and very pleased to see monsters back in town. Emma insists this is an isolated incident and refused to discuss reforming the group. In fact, she seems hurt and insulted by the very suggestion, especially After What Happened.

If I may interrupt myself, I’ve noticed a new trend. Origin stories are passé, so many new series begin as if we are joining a narrative in progress. In media res, as it were. The dark and mysterious After What Happened gets quite a few mentions, but is not explained, other than, “It’s complicated.” We just know it led to the death of Emma’s mother and the dissolution of the Starforce. And that it involved a bunch of monsters led by some Very Diabolical called Cimmeria, all of whom are presumed dispatched.

Our heroine slay the beast, but not before Emma is mysteriously wounded. Kim is gung-ho to notify the rest of the former team, Savanna and Molly, and their enigmatic commander, Astra. But Emma still wants to keep it on the down-low. So they go to hang out at Colleen’s house, which the caption tells us is, “Like, a five-minute walk from the school.” (Hey! I thought only I could use sarcastically use “like” in my writing!) There they find a party which in full swing. At this shindig every bug has a honey to hug and there are no wallflowers. And, whoa! The girls are beautiful and the boys even more beautiful! (But dumb as posts! Never before has the I.Q. ratio been so imbalanced between genders.)

Kim makes a point to drag each of her pals from their respective squeezes (who were boring them, anyway) so she can raise the alarm. No one else shares her concern, despite more Very Diabolical shenanigans in the form of a missing girl who returns, but under the thrall of alpha mean girl Diana, who the interview after the story indicates will be the Alexis Colby to the Starforce’s collective Crystal Carrington.

Eventually the non-team decides to mind-meld and contacts their big boss, the Goddess Astra, who proceeds to data dump a load of exposition. Brak brak… Nephos the dark dimension… brak brak … portal to energy source… brak brak… Cimmeria mounting an attack… Oh, yeah; and Emma’s dying. Have a nice day!

The interview after the story reveals the ladies have individual powers that actually correlate to a house of the Zodiac. Emma is Gemini, and can pull a Duo Damsel-styled self-replication. Kim (based on creator Paulina Ganucheau) is Taurus and has super-strength (and is hard-headed and loves “Godzilla” movies, just like Ganucheau). Savanna is Pieces and Molly is Aries; they also have “awesome” specialty powers, which powers must remain undisclosed for now. Well, technically all of their specialty powers are still undisclosed, as they weren’t yet mentioned in the actual narrative. It’s nice that your pitch sounds so exciting, dears, but now you kind of have to write a story that carries the momentum. This wasn’t it.

My verdict: Hmm… I’ll recommend it, but chiefly on grounds of enthusiasm and potential. You can feel the heart and love that is behind this project. It is written well-enough and I really wanted to like it, but it left me cold. The ingredients haven’t yet gelled into a distinctive voice, and it feels like a retread. It’s just too familiar.

Visit the artist’s tumblr http://paulinaganucheau.tumblr.com/

September 14, 2015
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