Star Bright, the graphic novel by Alice Clarke and Rob Zwetsloot, tells a story of friendship versus isolation and captures the anxieties that surround being a shy child. Obviously stylistically influenced by manga, the story is a coming-of-age tale centring on protagonist Zoe, how her life changes upon wishing at the sky, and subsequently having an alien Star arrive into her world. The main focus is on how Zoe can create meaningful relationships with people and the anxieties surrounding that, and emphasises the idea of the influence a single person can have on your outlook.
Some pages are presented in greys, and some are coloured depending on the narrative’s needs. For example, Star’s arrival is full of colour but Zoe’s home life at the start appears grey, reflecting the character’s emotional state and making Star’s emergence more visually impactful. Following its manga-style the characters frequently refer to various anime series throughout, lending their friendship some relatability (especially considering my own experiences).
However, Zoe’s uncertainty remains the heart of the story. Her personal stresses and fears about relationships with her friends are what make her an interesting character to base events around with her internal conflicts being something which a number of people can empathise with. It makes the story more personal and human despite its relationship to fantasy and aliens; the sense of her humanity spread throughout the comic really giving the tale its grounding in a believable reality.
Each character is introduced with a small stacked profile of traits including their names, age and other facts such as their favourite television programme. Each fact gives a small insight into the character. For example, Robin has two favourite TV shows listed – one she tells other people and the other being her true favourite – giving us an insight into each character’s personality straight away. It’s a storytelling tool that is particularly useful on characters who are not the comic’s main focus because there’s less time to get to know them throughout the story.
Although not the prime focus of the book there are some LGBT+ elements to the story with both Star and Zoe’s profile pages at the end showing their orientations. The ending of the comic should be considered romantic although this is not overt. The variety in characters provides the story with an interesting cast, not just relating to their LGBT+ status but also their personalities; Star being much more outgoing than Zoe.
Rob Zwetsloot (W), Alice Clarke (A) • Self-published, £12.00
Review by Holly Raidl