REVIEW: ‘I Am Not Starfire’ is a Heartwarming Coming of Age

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I Am Not Starfire

I Am Not Starfire is written by Mariko Tamaki, drawn and colored by Yoshi Yoshitani, lettered by Aditya Bidikar, and published by DC Comics. I Am Not Starfire is part of the DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults line.

I Am Not Starfire follows Mandy, your average grumpy antisocial high school student struggling to figure out her future. Except, she’s not that average. Her mom is the famous superhero Starfire. That’s right—the same Starfire that was the former princess of Tamaran and a member of the Titans. Mandy considers being the daughter of Starfire to be an unfortunate circumstance. People try and get close to her just to meet her mom. And people expect her to look and behave exactly like her mother. But Mandy isn’t anything like Starfire. At 16, almost 17, she has yet to develop superpowers, and she dyes her orange hair black to try and diminish her resemblance to her mother. She’s trying to have the most normal high school experience she can, despite her unusual experiences.

All Mandy wants is to make her mother understand that she’s not going to college, finish high school, and move to Paris. And make it through a school project with her crush Claire. Hopefully becoming more than friends with Claire in the process.  However, a dangerous figure from her mother’s past shows up, threatening to upend everything Mandy cares about.

Tamaki writes a compelling and emotional tale in I Am Not Starfire. Like almost everyone in their late teens, Mandy is trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the world.  This is a great baseline to build the superhero part of the story because readers can relate to it. Late adolescence is a tumultuous time, even without a superpowered, super famous parent.

And build off of this, Tamaki does. Mandy’s moments of normalcy are often undercut by someone asking her about what villains or monsters her mother is fighting now or the Titans showing up at her house. There’s a great balance between the truly normal and the “normal for a world where superheroes exist.”

In I Am Not Starfire, Tamaki writes Mandy as relatable and sympathetic. It’s easy to understand her frustration with her mother and resentment at everyone comparing them, expecting them to be the same. Mandy wants to be loved and appreciated for who she is, not who she’s related to or who people think she should be. Something that most can relate to.

The way Yoshitani’s art flows across the pages of I Am Not Starfire feels so natural. And Yoshitani also makes great use of the space on the entire page. Characters aren’t always contained to one panel; they overlap with other panels. Not in a way that feels overwhelming but in a way that pulls the reader’s eye along with the art. There are also moments where characters or speech bubbles move spillover from the panels into the gutter. Each page has a different and creative layout, making I Am Not Starfire a real visual treat. 

In addition to the panel layout and art flow, the character designs Yoshitani creates perfectly fit I Am Not Starfire. Mandy can try to distinguish herself from her mother as much as possible, but they are clearly related. Despite Mandy’s dyed black hair and goth style, a huge contrast to Starfire’s brilliant orange hair and preference for clothing that exposes as much of her body as possible to the sunlight she gains her power from, Mandy is clearly her mother’s daughter. They have similar facial features, and their expressions and body language frequently mirror each other.

I Am Not Starfire has a large variety of character diversity, not only personality-wise but appearance-wise.  There’s a wide variety of skin tones, hairstyles, and body types. Mandy is plus-sized. Very obviously so. Thankfully, her size isn’t really a plot point in I Am Not Starfire. Yes, there are a few rude comments from classmates about her size, but the comments set the tone for Mandy’s experience at school. 

There are some bullies, high school sucks, and Mandy can’t wait to leave. But she doesn’t feel ashamed of her body or desire to change it. And while Starfire does make a few comments about what Mandy is eating and Mandy mentions that her mom doesn’t like her appearance, this doesn’t become a central idea to the story. Mandy doesn’t undergo a weight loss montage or feel like she has to. Mandy is happy with her body.

Yoshitani’s colors in I Am Not Starfire are also stunning. Often bold and intense, they set the scene. And provide contrast between Mandy and her mother. Starfire loves warm colors. She dresses in them, decorates with them. Meanwhile, Mandy prefers cool tones, darker colors that set her apart from her mother.

Bidikar’s lettering in I Am Not Starfire is solid. As previously mentioned, the speech bubbles and boxes are not always confined to a panel. They can cross over into the gutter or surrounding panels. It’s a testament to Bidikar’s skill as a letterer that this helps them flow with the art and the action, allowing the reader to easily know how to follow the dialogue.

Even if readers aren’t usually huge fans of superhero stories, I Am Not Starfire is well worth checking out. I Am Not Starfire is more than just a superhero book; it’s a coming-of-age tale with a superhero twist. And the relatable, emotional story combined with the gorgeous art makes this book a must-read. 

I Am Not Starfire is available now wherever comics are sold and online through Bookshop.org using our affiliate link.

 

I Am Not Starfire
5

TL;DR

Even if readers aren’t usually huge fans of superhero stories, I Am Not Starfire is well worth checking out. I Am Not Starfire is more than just a superhero book; it’s a coming-of-age tale with a superhero twist. And the relatable, emotional story combined with the gorgeous art makes this book a must-read.