GLAAD- nominated graphic novel, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by writer Jadzia Axelrod, artist Jess Taylor, and letterer Ariana Maher, uses the world of superheroes and science fiction as a trans allegory that is bright and full of hope.
Taylor Barzelay isn’t like the other kids in school. He feels trapped in a body that’s alien to him, mainly because it is. Taylor’s not a teen boy at all, but actually Taelyr, a princess from the planet Cyandii who’s in hiding. As time goes by, the vessel of a human boy doesn’t fit with her at all and Taelyr wants to be her true self, in all her colourful glory. Her family—actually her security detail—fear that by revealing herself, their enemy, the Vane, will hunt her down and she would be best staying in disguise.
Galaxy… wears its heart, and allegory, on its beautiful sleeve. It’s not subtle, but it’s stunning. Even though this is a story of galactic wars set in a world of superheroes, the authenticity of the experience leaps off the page thanks to Axelrod’s writing. This is a teen drama wrapped in sci-fi clothes that reads true to life.
Jess Taylor’s art explodes with joy. From Taelyr’s day-to-day life to her brilliant views when she gets to be her true self, along with the sudden fear of being so vulnerable when she does. There is an ebullient emotional tone to Jess Taylor’s work; expressive faces radiant joy, frustration, and rage. Taylor’s angular style feels fluid, and plays into the awkwardness of those teenage years as well as the otherworldliness of Taelyr’s history.
While the source of Taelyr’s dysphoria doesn’t stem from a truly human trans experience, many of the emotions and circumstances do overlap and it feels like this is a trans story designed to be read by a wide audience. The trans elements are all given universally familiar touchstones to invite the reader empathize with Taelyr’s situation.
One of the most interesting things about Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, is where the book ends [**Spoilers ahead**]. There are a lot of portents of doom laden throughout, such as Taelyr’s security fears that the Vane find her if she reveals her true self. Were this a more conventional superhero tale you could see the avenues it would go down – an alien invasion, a fight and ultimately a triumph. Instead we’re focused in tight on Taelyr’s emotional journey, not the mechanics of the plot, which leaves a shadow over the finale. As Taelyr comes out as her true self to those around her, the threat of attack lingers and the wisdom of Taelyr’s decision is hard to fully celebrate. Not unlike EM Forster’s Maurice, the story ends quickly while things are happy, before anything bad can befall the characters. [**End spoilers**]
Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is a very pretty read. Gorgeous to look at and easy to digest, it isn’t pushing the boundaries of representation in comics, but it does beautifully layer more trans stories into the fabric of the DC Comics universe.
By Chad Armstrong
Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is nominated for Outstanding Graphic Novel at the 34th GLAAD Media Awards and is available now from DC Comics.
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