What if your mother was a solar-powered, bikini wearing, alien superhero? This is what Mandy Anders struggles with, in addition to more standard teenage problems like appearances, first loves, and college applications. And yes, her mom is Starfire. That Starfire. The most naively written character in Teen Titans is now a single mom. The “single” part of that comes up in the book from time to time, but is never really expanded on. Like many things relating to Starfire and Mandy, it is a mystery.
For her part, Mandy considers herself to be extremely different from her mother, and seems to go out of her way to be more so by dyeing her hair in the opening of the book. She is surly, chubby, and unpopular. She doesn’t have any superpowers (despite years of waiting) and seems to resent everything except for her best friend Lincoln and her crush Claire. She does not plan to attend college, which is a point of friction between mother and daughter. Over the course of the book her relationship with Claire progresses smoothly until Claire meets Starfire’s co-workers and posts about it online. Things only get worse from there for Claire…
All of this is beautifully illustrated using muted colors and lots of layering effects and abstract shapes in addition to more traditional comic book art. Taken together it means the books can range from looking like a digital collage or to looking like a space faring action book. It is to Yoshitani’s credit that those tonal shifts are easy to follow and never distracting to read. There is also a recurring set up of a two-page spread with Starfire on the left and Mandy on the right, mirroring each other. It’s a neat image to return throughout the book, showing their relationship and personalities.
What can I say about Tamaki’s writing that hasn’t been said before? It’s wonderful and she writes incredibly believable teenagers and dialog. The Titans most resemble grown-up versions of their television incarnations, but could pretty easily be slid into any continuity. There are definite shades of Tamaki’s past works here, especially Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. But then again, when you write one of the best teen romance stories in recent memory, why wouldn’t you build on that?
I Am Not Starfire is reminiscent of the aforementioned book as well as Tamaki’s other works for DC Comics like Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass and Supergirl: Being Super. It also fits in with other out of continuity DC tales like Oracle Code or Shadow of the Bat. The balance of teen slice of life and space faring superheroes is excellent and means this book can appeal to a wide variety of readers.
The publisher recommends this book for teens, and I would agree with that. There’s a tiny amount of blood in a fight scene, and copious swearing in that same fight scene. If Tamaki’s other books have been a hit for your readers, you should definitely check this out!
I reviewed a digital copy of this book provided by the publisher. As a digital book it was a fine reading experience, but given the number of two-page spreads I think it would be a better purchase in print.
I Am Not Starfire Vol.
By Mariko Tamaki
Art by Yoshi Yoshitani
DC Comics, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
Series ISBNs and Order
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: Canadian, Lesbian,