Goodreads: I Am Not Starfire
Published: July 2021
Mandy is tired of the expectations that come with being the daughter of Starfire. Everything thinks that she has superpowers, which she doesn’t, and, worse, everyone thinks that they can use her to get to her mother. Mandy just wants to get through high school–preferably without her mom learning that she walked out of her SATs and has no desire to go to college. Then an old enemy appears to target Starfire. Is Mandy strong enough to save her mom?
I have never read a Starfire comic and I know nothing of the Teen Titans, so I went into I Am Not Starfire with few expectations. I assumed I would be reading a coming-of-age story focused on Mandy, Starfire’s daughter, and what it means to be related to somebody famous, when you feel like you are just average. Because I did not expect a Starfire comic and because I have no clue what Starfire is like in any of her other appearances, I enjoyed I Am Not Starfire for what it is: a look at one teen’s search for identity while trying to come out from the shadow of her mother’s reputation.
Even if one accepts that I Am Not Starfire is not a Titans story, but rather Mandy’s story, I think that the comic may be admittedly difficult for some to enjoy. Mandy is almost a stereotypically angsty teen, angry at everyone and mean for no reason. Readers who prefer their protagonists to be likable may struggle with Mandy’s attitude and the way in which she shuts everyone out. Her struggle to accept herself is real, of course, and will gain her some sympathy. But not every teen searching for themselves is rude and hurtful. Mandy’s projection of her self-loathing onto others is difficult to watch.
The plot probably will not capture readers, however, if they fail to connect with Mandy. It is a rather standard affair, with Mandy trying to get through high school, deal with crushes, and figure out what her future will look like. The fact that her mom is famous is pretty much the biggest spin given to an age-old storyline. Refreshingly, the superheroes do not come into play much until the very end, when an old nemesis of Starfire’s appears for a showdown. This moment proves a weak point in the story, however, since a gladiator-style fight in front of Mandy’s high school seems both out of place and ridiculous. The day is then saved by a deus ex machina, which essentially destroys the idea that Mandy can be average and still valuable and accepting of herself.
The illustrations may be the biggest strength of the book. I enjoyed Yoshi Yoshitani’s work in Zatanna and the House of Secrets, and was pleased to see the artist’s work once again here. Yoshitani tends to draw kind of cute illustrations with pleasing color palettes, which make the book a joy to read.
DC has released many great graphic novels for tween and teen readers lately. I Am Not Starfire is a solid offering, but not one of the best. The idea is good; the execution is only so-so.