‘I Am Not Starfire’ Is A Sweet Coming-Of-Age Story About Being Misunderstood And Standing In Your Own Power – Review
17-year-old Mandy is your average rebellious high school goth kid. She has some anxieties about her future, a major crush on one of the cool girls, and is a bit of an outcast. Typical teen drama, oh, and she is the daughter of the uber famous superhero, Starfire (and perhaps Nightwing?). So, Mandy isn’t that average after all.
From author Mariko Tamaki and artist Yoshi Yoshitani, I Am Not Starfire, is a sweet and poignant tale of learning who you are and what you are capable of. The story is about a teenage girl overwhelmed by expectations and her strained relationship with her mother. Very common and relatable troubles. The graphic novel is beautifully presented as it’s bright, colourful, charming and engaging, but also honest to Mandy’s experiences.
Tamaki’s story is simple but effective. It is not overly dramatic in its approach but doesn’t underplay telling the story about Mandy’s anxieties regarding her future, the pressures of being the daughter of someone famous, and also not being able to communicate her true feelings to her mother. Yoshitani’s artwork perfectly captures the essence of the story, working alongside Tamaki’s writing to create a vivid portrait of Mandy and Starfire. The distinct colouring to illustrate the difference between the mother and daughter enrich the text, and allows the reader to fully immerse themselves into the story.
Although the story touches on DC canon that most readers know about, the book does not assume everyone is extremely knowledgeable and thus takes a step back to ease us into the world through a new perspective. There is a nice balance between telling an independent story about growing up and the story of what it’s like to be the daughter of the Starfire. The narrative doesn’t get into the weeds in regards to DC canon, specifically in regards to Mandy’s father. Those details don’t matter as much as the story about this dynamic mother-daughter duo.
I Am Not Starfire is the perfect summer read for any young burgeoning comic book reader and DC fan. It is light on lore, but opens readers up to an expansive world with interesting characters and narratives. Mandy, our rebellious teen, is the perfect protagonist to jumpstart any young readers interest into all things superheroes and comic books. She is well drawn, in terms of writing and character design, with a clear and distinctive personality and voice. Her struggles are universal and she is easy to root for. Many will find Mandy to be a refreshing change of pace as she is a fat queer goth girl, but her story isn’t solely about her appearance or her queerness. This is a family-oriented story about a young woman who is close to the superhero world, but feels out of place.
In addition to telling Mandy’s story, the book offers more insight regarding Mandy’s experience through her best friend. Lincoln adds a touch of realism as he is a friendly reminder that while Mandy is experiencing life as the daughter of an alien superhero, her experiences are not entirely out-of-this-world. He provides much needed context and understanding that many young people struggle with familial expectations and don’t fully comprehend the hardships their parents have gone through to give them a chance to succeed and find happiness. In a very subtle ways, this story is a reflection of the refugee and immigrant experience as told through the eyes of the children.
All in all, I Am Not Starfire is a delightful read which has a bit of everything – family drama, teenage existentialism, awesome best friends and pet parrots, a sweet romance, and most of all, a fun and engaging protagonist. By the end, you will be 100% on board with Mandy and her journey, and hopefully we get a lot more of her in graphic novel form, and fingers crossed, in an animated series. Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani created a wonderful book that is just bursting with potential.