In Zodiac Starforce #2, the Magical Girl team of Emma, Savi, Molly, and Kim starts to come together and really feel like friends in and out of their Starforce outfits. The opening scene featuring a group text in class session is simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking as Savi keeps asking Emma how she feels after Astra (the goddess who gave them powers) said that she was dying while Molly and Kim, who are cutting class, clown around with emojis and silly facial expressions. Kevin Panetta’s writing is stronger in this issue as he balances emotion and romance with an extended fight scene in the middle.and a transformation sequence depicted gloriously by Paulina Ganucheau. He and Ganucheau also start to develop the conflict between Zodiac Starforce and Diana’s mean girl squad using the relatable medium of high school sports, which becomes trippier and more supernatural as the issue rolls to its conclusion.
Savi gets the adorable bisexual love triangle with Darren (whose only contribution to this issue is flirting with Diana’s “hot” friend Alice) and Lily, but the primary focus is on Emma, who just wanted to do well in school, go to college, and not worry about fighting demons any more. Unfortunately, something from Astra’s dimension has made her sick, which causes her to struggle in battle against the enemies that Diana unleashes from the portal and miss school as her body starts to be covered by sickly purple veins. This demonstrates that Ganucheau can do harsh colors as well as the soft pastels she uses for Zodiac Starforce’s outfits and powers. She also gives Emma realistic emotions with close-up panels of her tears as Emma doesn’t want to die, but she also doesn’t want to endanger the world by opening portals to Nephos and punching monsters.
Even if Emma gets the main dramatic arc, Panetta and Ganucheau don’t skimp on Molly and Kim’ storyline, which puts them on a very different team: the JV volleyball squad.Even though Diana is the team captain, Molly is a better strategist, and she’s also the best player as demonstrated by her clearly jumping higher in a series of montage panels. Kim is a solid role player in her setter position, which is similar to a point guard in basketball playing a key role in scoring points even if her game isn’t as flashy. This extends to the fight scene with the demons as she transforms into her bull armor and runs them over into a corner so Molly can banish them with her portals. However, Molly’s portal creation abilities fluctuate throughout the issue continuing the air of mystery around Diana along with Emma’s illness.
Zodiac Starforce #2 is worth a read for Paulina Ganucheau’s art, colors, and letters alone. Through characters, like Emma and Molly’s hairstyles, she gives the comic an 80s vibe like the original Jem and the Holograms cartoon while the volleyball scene reminded me of the opening scene of Carrie. Also, like the best 1980s X-Men artists, she knows how to place characters in the panel to craft action scenes centered around teamwork. For example, there’s a page where Molly sees Emma struggling and lets Kim unleash her super rad bull armor in a Taurus shaped panel with a bright mix of blues and yellows and cut loose. Ganucheau also does a nice job of showing when characters are struggling in battles, like Emma’s weak sword swings compared to the energy of her teammates and the deep lines on Molly’s face as she tries to close the panels.
In issue two, Zodiac Starforce starts to go beyond its influences and becomes its own story as Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau give each team member their own mini-arc to go with the demon fighting from Emma struggling with sickness to Savi starting to fall for and open up to Lily and Molly and Kim’s volleyball hijinks. The Ganucheaus’ art and colors continues to be stellar with unique panel layouts for the action scenes and a careful use of close-ups for emotional scenes like when Savi starts to tell Lily about her powers. I was thrilled by the fight scenes and really started to care about the character by the end of the issue.
Zodiac Starforce #2
Written by Kevin Panetta
Art, colors, and letters by Paulina Ganucheau
Color flats by Savanna Ganucheau
Published by Dark Horse Comics
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Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.