The girls are fighting a war on two fronts! Will it tear them apart, or worse?

ZODIAC STARFORCE #2 by Kevin Panetta, Paulina Ganucheau, and Savanna Ganucheau

Emma’s getting sicker, the girls are struggling to maintain their relationships, and this is all before a new threat emerges at the volleyball game! It can’t get any worse for the Zodiac Starforce… can it?

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With this issue, ZODIAC STARFORCE solidifies its spot amongst comics like BATGIRL, LUMBERJANES, and ARCHIE in the fight to make joy cool again. Every exuberant page makes ZODIAC STARFORCE #2 practically intoxicating. The vibe is just as strong as it was in #1, but it’s especially important here because it demonstrates the title can sustain that kind of energy. I’m confident it’ll stay that way through #3, which means this comic is off and running. The first issue was supremely confident, and that strut just continues through #2, as so much happens and no time is wasted.

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Each panel is jam packed with action, dialogue, and almost more color than you can handle. ZODIAC STARFORCE’s marvellously self-aware narrative style remains one of its delights, even though it’s still totally subtle. Self-awareness can be clumsy, and even exhausting, but it hasn’t worn out its welcome here yet, with clever setting captions and, a touch I loved, text messages floating above the heads of those who sent them. No, ZODIAC STARFORCE isn’t the first to do these things, but it all feels so right on these pages that it all becomes that much better.

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The degree to which all the plot-lines and dynamics (of which there are many) are moved along in a single issue is remarkable. Some are nudged while others are shoved, but none feel neglected or rushed. Even if it’s just in a single panel (for example, when Savi scolds Darren and he walks off), you get a very clear picture of what’s transpired and how everyone feels about it. It’s exceptionally tight storytelling when you consider how every panel, every page, is practically bursting with information, with color, with energy.

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Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone open a copy of ZODIAC STARFORCE and literally see the book glow against their face. One could argue that it’s too much–that it’s all too much: the art style, the number of characters, the number and complexity of the dynamics and plot-lines. Maybe it’s too bloated to be sustainable.

Maybe.

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I don’t see that yet. The risk is there, sure, but when you’ve created a world this rich with a goal this compelling, I can imagine how the creators can get caught up in trying to do all the things. It’s all executed so well, with such confidence and craft and just joy that I can’t fault them for going a little overboard (even though I think they don’t). The characterization is strong, the dynamics are defined, and the drama is grounded and real–especially in light of its cosmic and superheroic stakes.

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We need more books like ZODIAC STARFORCE #2, and ZODIAC STARFORCE in general. Not just because of its strong and diverse female ensemble (though the importance of that cannot be understated), but because there isn’t enough joy in this world. Sure, the girls may fight and cry and worry in the face of practically-apocalyptic danger, but what they come back to is their love for one another and the strength of their hearts. In a cynical world where boys solve problems by punching them hard, ZODIAC STARFORCE is a big, bright, colorful light in the darkness.

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