Zodiac Starforce #3 is a content heavy issue as writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau deal with the ramifications of last issue’s portal monster attack, the Cimmeria controlled Diana’s evil plans, and set up an action-packed showdown with Diana and her minions in next month’s conclusion issue. But they don’t neglect whimsy even as the plot gets darker with the introduction of the (rather generically name) High School Detective Club, who play an adorkable supporting role as well as standing in for Magical Girl fans everywhere. However, most of the issue is falling action with Zodiac Starforce unsure about what to do without their leader Emma, and Diana menacingly doling out her backstory to a passed out Emma and Lily, Savanna’s love interest. To her credit, Ganucheau keeps the color palette bright and breaks out even more fabulous fashions for the characters, including Diana’s villain armor.
The internal squabbling and confusion that has made up the first two issues of Zodiac Starforce continues in issue three as Kim, Molly, and Savanna have problems coordinating plans for saving the world beyond Kim bum rushing the nearest thing in sight. Luckily, Panetta and Ganucheau break up the arguing with some action and quip showcasing the girls’ power as they figure what to do next. Ganucheau brings her own special touch to several sequences, including a soft blue for for Savanna’s Celestial Tidal Wave move and a harsh purple when Diana’s second-in-command Nicole drops in to deter them from protecting Emma. She and Panetta don’t miss a beat when Kim’s boyfriend Josh checks in with her mid-battle over the phone, which shows she has a life and personality outside Zodiac Starforce.
But where Zodiac Starforce #3 truly breaks free is when Diana gets to tell her side of the story in a scene towards the end of the issue that is part villainous monologue (Diana is fully aware of this.), part origin story, and possibly even a seduction. The big reveal of the issue is that Diana was a member of an earlier incarnation of Zodiac Starforce and lost her entire team, and Astra wouldn’t intervene in the fight or resurrect her teammates after their death. But Cimmeria brought her teammates, and hence Diana is evil. This flashback doesn’t break the flow of the narrative, but heightens it as Diana turns from a Mean Girl with a touch of magic to a weary war veteran cursing the goddess, who was supposed to keep her safe with her limitless power. Astra’s inactivity (She is completely absent in Zodiac Starforce #3) makes Diana’s words more sympathetic and powerful with her turn to the dark side being only logical. Ganucheau also unleashes some huge gestures for what is the Magical Girl equivalent of a theodicy. (Basically, trying to answer the question, “If god exists, why is there evil in the world?”)
However, as Zodiac Starforce #3 gets theological and melodramatic, Panetta and Ganucheau keep things grounded with the High School Detectives Club, whose fandom and outside perspective puts the Zodiac Starforce back on the straight and narrow. Ganucheau’s commitment to a diversity of body types continues with the Detectives, who wear clothes that teenagers might actually wear. The Detectives’ scenes aren’t just a quick tribute to the fans, but are also pivotal to the plot and setting up the final battle even if Heather reciting the character traits of the Starforce members is a little on the nose. They make a big impression with their infectious passion for detective work and Zodiac Starforce and left me wanting a separate High School Detective Club spinoff or a one-shot from their POV.
Zodiac Starforce #3 adds depth to its Big Bad, Diana, and balances fun and darkness with the introduction of the High School Detective Club. And Paulina Ganucheau’s character design, fight choreography, and vibrant color palette without a black or grey in sight continues to impress and make the book literally beam.
Zodiac Starforce #3
Written by Kevin Panetta
Art by Paulina Ganucheau
Color flats by Kristen Acampora
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Be the first to leave a rating.
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.