This one has intrigued me, as it’s been the focus of some almost incandescent foaming rage from the right leaning side of comics fandom and whilst I don’t count myself among them I am a firm fan of writer Mariko Tamaki’s Harley Quinn young adult book ‘Breaking Glass’, where she was helped out by some stunning art from David Pugh. This time it’s Yoshi Yohitani (Beneath The Moon), and it’s a very different book to the previous one.
‘I Am Not Starfire’ is about a sixteen year old girl called Mandy. As the title might suggest, Mandy’s mom is none other than Starfire, the orange skinned, ridiculously beautiful alien superhero that I last encountered way back when she was an original Teen Titan. The identity of Mandy’s father is never revealed, adding an extra layer of trauma onto being the short, non-powered, non-perfect daughter of a perfect mother. You see, Mandy is definitely NOT Starfire, she’s a grumpy teenager with her own life and problems, dedicating much of her energy into sulking at the world. You know, like teenager are prone to do. The story revolves around Mandy and her day to day life, and doesn’t even really touch on hero stuff until the end. This isn’t your normal DC publication, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
One thing that put me off reading this in the first place is Yoshitanis art, which is very cartoonish and unrealistic. There’s precious little depth or detail, and whilst I appreciate this is her style, and that others may love it, I find it ugly and detracting from the book. That said, she handles the action sequence in the latter stages extremely well, really giving them energy, so I guess I just don’t like her illustrating everyday life.
The character of Mandy is, to me, pretty believable. She’s a short, overweight girl with a few chips on each shoulder, and if we’re honest it’s no surprise she is like she is. Reading the book I felt sorry for her, but also sorry for Starfire, having to put up with this ungrateful whiny teen! They are written well, really, but not having seen Starfire for many years, I’m confused as to why she speaks like an Eastern-Eurpoean, rather than the perfect English of old. Maybe one of you Titans fans out there can tell me if it’s just here or that’s just how she talks these days. Anyway, Mandy basically has one friend, the old cliché gay best friend, and she has a big crush on one of the popular hottie girls in the school. Stuff happens is all I’m going to say, as spoilers aren’t a pretty look on anyone.
‘I Am Not Starfire” is a book about growing up in the shadow of a super hero parent, whilst not taking after her in any way. I was very surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed it, with the final section really coming alive and concluding the story nicely. I’m really not sure about all the hate, as it’s a fairly standard story template, just with added superheroes, and could easily have been about, say, a young boy whose Dad is a famous Baseball player or something, yet he’s shite at baseball. The enjoyment is definitely in the way it’s told here, and once I got my head around the art I had no problem zipping through it. Although a young adult publication, it’s can be read by anyone older, and I’m a 53 year old man with no kids, just to prove that point. Definitely looking forward to seeing what Mariko Tamaki comes up with next.