Cartoonist: Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky
Colorist: Eros de Santiago Publisher: BOOM! Studios – Archaia
WHAT IS IT?
A traditional magical girl coming of age story set during a brutal alien occupation of Earth.
Think Sailor Moon meets War of the Worlds.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Twelve years ago, humanity made first contact with a mysterious alien ship in the shape of a face floating ominously in the atmosphere. Things went catastrophically wrong and ever since, humanity has been in a struggle for survival against the Agarthian threat. Sequestered in isolated cities protected by strong barriers, people continue to live everyday lives knowing that, at any moment, they could come under attack. The only thing protecting them is a mysterious group of magical girls colloquially called The Flavor Girls for their fruit and vegetable inspired outfits and powers.
Sara, a French student with ambitions of helping achieve some kind of peace with the Agarthians, is attacked by a group of ruthless alien sentinels. Surrounded and hunted ruthlessly, she narrowly avoids capture and death by running inside...a giant pineapple? Before she can think it through, the fruit is transforming her into the next Flavor Girl! But is this the power fantasy Sara's been waiting for, or a nightmare waiting to happen? It'll take a team introduction and training montage to find out!
Locatelli-Kournwsky creates a genuinely intriguing world that blends dystopic visual language with the bright, innocent aesthetic of magical girl tropes.
De Santiago's flat coloring creates high contrast and clarity to the action, which is important when the silhouettes of the aliens start shifting in unfamiliar ways.
The lettering is incredibly playful, often incorporating small drawings, logos, and unique shape language to punctuate the dialogue without being distracting.
There's a lot of charm in the characters both design wise and in terms of traits. Each character, whether a core member of the team or only on page for a single line, has a look and feel unique to them, so it's easy to tell everyone apart.
The manga aesthetic is strong in this comic, owing much to media like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, but unlike many books in those styles, backgrounds rarely drop and are mostly highly detailed and lovingly rendered. The environment is just as much a character in this comic as any of the titular Flavor Girls.
There's a ton of racial and ethnic diversity in the core cast of characters which grants a lot of credibility to the idea that this is a story taking place on a global scale. The cultural differences also make each character more distinct and create unique interactions between them.
Matilda, Sara's personal trainer as she learns to be a Flavor Girl, has a prosthetic leg, which is a character detail that stands out not only as good representation, but also as a world building detail, showing the human cost of the alien occupation and attacks.
Each issue is over 4 pages with multiple chapters, side stories, and back matter included. It's refreshing how much story you get with each book in a medium that is typically, painfully episodic.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There is a massive tone problem from which almost all of my other critiques stem. The core concept is high camp with playful and innocent aesthetics, but Flavor Girls can't seem to decide if it wants to conform to those trappings like Sailor Moon, or subvert them like Madoka Magica.
People are killed and maimed frequently in the comic in ways that I wouldn't necessarily call triggering, but clash horrifically with the inherent silliness of food-based magical girls. Maybe there are plans to address this disconnect, but the first three chapters swing uncomfortably between lightweight and gruesome in ways that distract rather than build on the narrative.
This is further underpinned by the rather silly design of the alien threat. Their big round bodies and cartoon giant mouths make them come off as something we shouldn't take seriously, but then they start smashing people into bloody messes and eating them and the dissonance becomes distracting to the actual stakes. A more threatening design would fix the problem.
There's a fair amount of humor that doesn't land. Obviously this kind of thing is subjective, but the obviously-going-to-be-a-villain-later head of the big government agency introduces her organization as A.S.S., and it becomes hard to take anything seriously after that.
There's a lot of exposition dump dialogue, particularly after the explosive introduction of chapter 1. It slows the pacing down a lot and makes the back half of what's currently on the racks a bit of a drag to get through.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I am pretty obviously not the target market for this book, so take what criticism I have with a grain of salt, but I found Flavor Girls to be a well made book and good time with some truly baffling creative decisions that some readers may really love and others may hate. The heart of the story is the strong chemistry between the characters and the big personalities of the leads, and I think the comic is worth picking up just for that.
If you're easily distracted by tonal inconsistencies and the occasional joke that doesn't hit the mark, I might skip this one. But, if you're a big fan of the magical girl genre and want a comic that will scratch that particular itch with fun, bombastic characters and a big training arc, I think you'll have a ton of fun with Flavor Girls!
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