Review: I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani

For all my talk about comics, weekly pull lists and retweets about new, upcoming series, it’s actually been a minute since I reviewed and comics or graphic novels here on the blog! So it’s no secret I’m a fan of DC comics. I am however always aware of where they can improve. Over the years, DC has been releasing original graphic novels and stories aimed at young adults and more accessible to younger readers. I Am Not Starfire is the most recent one I have read.

Seventeen-year-old Mandy Koriand’r is not her mother. Daughter of Starfire and high school outcast, Mandy is constantly trying to get out from under the shadow of her bright, bubbly, scantily clad, and famous mother. Dyeing her bright orange hair black and sticking close to her best friend, Lincoln, Mandy spends her days at school avoiding Teen Titans superfans and trying to hide her feelings for the gorgeous, popular, and perfect Claire. And while Mandy usually avoids spending too much time with her alien mother, she’s been particularly quiet as she’s keeping one major secret from her: Mandy walked out of her S.A.T.

While Mandy continues to tell Lincoln her plans of moving to France to escape the family spotlight and not go to college, she secretly hides a fear of not knowing her identity outside of just being the daughter of a superhero and who she will become. But when she is partnered with Claire to work on a school project, their friendship develops into something more and a self-confidence unknown to Mandy begins to bloom. Claire seems to like Mandy for being Mandy, not the daughter of Starfire.

But when someone from Starfire’s past comes to disrupt Mandy’s future, Mandy must finally make a choice: give up before the battle has even begun, or step into the unknown and risk everything. I Am Not Starfire is a story about mother-daughter relationships, embracing where you come from while finding your own identity, and learning to be unafraid of failing, if it was even failing in the first place

This was a very touching and unique story with a lot of heart. My first entry into comics was reading my uncle’s copy of The Dark Knight Returns, which while that is a cornerstone of recent comics and a story I really love, didn’t really have a lot to relate to at 14. While a lot of this story is far from my own experience, there is a lot in it that I found myself thinking back to my teens on.

Mandy is the daughter of Starfire, she being her only parent since she isn’t aware of her father’s identity. A few people have become confused here wondering why this character isn’t Nightstar and if she is Nightstar, why is she so different. So for everyone, Nightstar is the daughter of Starfire and Dick Grayson from Kingdom Come, a story of many popular DC characters in alternate timelines. That seems to be a source of confusion for many critics of the book they haven’t read and the synopsis they didn’t check either. Let that sort that from here.

We see the entire story from Mandy’s perspective and I think for a lot of people the hardest thing will be having to see Starfire through her lens as what is essentially a villain in the story. And it’s very hard not to see Mandy painting her that way. Before I carry on, I am a huge fan of Starfire. She was always someone I enjoyed in the Teen Titans cartoons and comics. But everyone we admire will always be seen differently from their siblings, family members and children. Mandy has done just about everything to distance herself from her mother. In a very deliberate opening scene, she is seen covering her red/orange roots with black hair dye as she thinks of her childhood along side her mother.

There is a lot more to the comparisons than just her hair. Tamaki was very subtle in certain things I thought, moments where Mandy would eat something and Starfire would remark about her already having eaten. The passing mentions of Mandy’s size by the friends of her love interest Claire. There is always this underlying thing that people think first on meeting her, and it’s not first does she have superpowers. It’s why she isn’t the same shape as her mother. I think that speaks for itself.

The art in this book is what I was most impressed with. Yoshi Yoshitani is an artist I’ve not come across directly before reading this and I really love the style they used in this book. There is a focus on colours alone to convey details, faces and feelings but with no distinct black outline. Starfire especially looks incredible, bright complimentary colours always do but it

My main critique of the story overall is that the plot kind of got a bit messy in terms of what it wanted to be. I started reading it being under the impression this would focus on the child of a superhero and her every day of being a normal teen without superpowers and just trying to figure things out. This did change very quickly about the last third and granted it wrapped up well and on a nice note, I did think it did leave down what other potential it was exploring.

I will say, this book has been a clear target online (Goodreads in particular) for a lot harassment. This book is aimed at a younger, teen audience. If you’re a long time comics reader, it might not be your cup of tea. If you don’t like it after reading it/ the sound of reading it, that’s valid. You then you move on with your life. It’s that simple. I think this book is a refreshing take in a new direction and could potentially be a gateway someone needs. Thanks for checking in guys! Happy reading!

★★★★/5

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