How can you shine as your brightest self when you’re told your identity has to be a secret? The newest story from DC’s Graphic Novels for Young Adults imprint Galaxy: The Prettiest Star explores this and more through the struggles of its teen transgender protagonist Taylor Barzelay. The book’s writer Jadzia Axelrod, artist Jess Taylor, and letterer Ariana Maher work in perfect harmony to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who is or has struggled to be themselves.
A Supergirl of sorts, Taylor is an alien princess from the planet Cyandii, which was attacked by the alien hive mind Vane, who was relocated to Earth for her safety. The Vane are after Taylor, so to keep her whereabouts secret she has to live her life disguised as a human boy. The first page of Galaxy: The Prettiest Star strips this backstory down to a simple thought around seeing yourself in the mirror but not recognizing the person you see. The metaphors for the trans experience are abundant in this story, but this one is so strikingly tied to modern, everyday trans experiences you almost forget its fantastical premise.
However, Jess Taylor’s lively, animated art pulls you back into the fantasy with textured flats and dynamic movements. The book could easily be an animated series akin in style to the fluid sharpness of Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego (2019) because it’s so alive. The coloring is almost retro in design, with shadows accented in color and artful line colors adjusted to their surroundings. Not to mention the excellent use of the trans and lesbian flag color schemes throughout the book along with the other vividly stunning use of color (like Taylor’s cyan hair to match her planet’s name).
Another delightful detail in Galaxy: The Prettiest Star’s art is Ariana Maher’s text bubble design for Taylor’s true identity. When she’s seen as her purple-skinned, blue-haired person, her words appear at the end of a wavy stem. The indication of voice change not only shows her as not human, but as her unique self that has a voice of her own.
There are also many beats in Galaxy: The Prettiest Star where Taylor is holding back rage or expressing incognito frustration that are painfully resonant. The apt use of changing panel sizes and Jess Taylor’s ability to express emotion through only half of a face accentuate this sentiment with such accuracy. Along with moments of misgendering, misuse of pronouns, gender dysphoria with clothing, and other moments where the trans experience is clear, Jadzia Axelrod knows how to explore these incidents throughout the story with ease.
Galaxy: The Prettiest Star also shows that not everyone gets a complete fairytale ending where everything suddenly falls into place. You may lose friends and battles and still feel like you’re in the same place as you were before, but you’ll always have people out there to support you. You may have to breathe against the painful jewel in your chest, to make the effort to go against a world set on pushing you down because sometimes surviving and thriving is rebellion in of itself.
Like many of the other books from the DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults imprint, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star uses the extraordinary to explore the ordinary. Through its comparisons of human problems to galaxies and extraterrestrials, it shows that these universal experiences like belonging and identity are just that – universal. That even across galaxies and past stars there could be people experiencing the same emotions, the same struggles, and it makes us feel not as alone.
With Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, Axelrod, Taylor, and Maher coalesce stardust to create a vividly beautiful and poignant story that speaks to the unique shine in all of us.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!