Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod & Jess Taylor

Minor disclaimer: Jadzia and I are friends via the Space Gnome Discord server. I was actually a little hesitant to read and review this because of our connection (which is dumb of me: I should always try to boost my friends!) but I’m super glad I finally found the time to.

To all appearances, Taylor Barzelay has the perfect life. Good-looking and athletic, Taylor lives with an over-protective dad (who’s also the high school and thus Taylor’s basketball coach), a rebellious older brother, a delightful younger sister and an adorable corgi. But Taylor isn’t actually the teenage boy she appears to be: she’s the Galaxy Crowned, a princess in exile hiding from the species that destroyed her home world. What better disguise than adopting a different gender and living as part of a middle-class family in a town (called Ozma!) whose planetary telescope interferes with sophisticated technology, the better to hide Taylor and her fellow alien refugees in disguise.

Unfortunately, hiding her true identity is an exercise in pure torture. While the General posing as her dad is resigned to living in hiding, and her younger sister Sally only really grew up knowing Earth, her older brother Carl is a simmering ball of misplaced rage, while Taylor herself is constantly tormented by body dysmorphia. Her tenuous commitment to the ruse is tested when new girl Kat rolls into town, a transplant from Metropolis. Kat is sophisticated and sexy and not into dudes. Will this be enough to weaken Taylor’s will in spite of everyone and everything telling her to keep hiding who she truly is?

As a trans allegory, this book is truly terrific. The pain of being forced to deny who you really are feels palpable, as Taylor struggles to be true to herself in her search for love and validation. The awful reactions she elicits from bigoted high school students and staff are also realistically depicted, in a wry commentary on the completely horrifying and unjustified treatment trans students have to live with in the real world.

Where the story doesn’t really work is as a sci-fi tale. While the looming threat of unseen aggressors is a fairly standard sci-fi trope, it does feel like less of an actual threat and more of a reason for Taylor to feel trapped. Would she feel more comfortable if she’d been allowed to hide as a human girl instead of a boy? The alien technology is cool but it seems like an oversight to not be training the kids in their powers, should the aliens ever arrive. I presume there’s some sort of fallback plan should that ever happen?

But the sci-fi isn’t really the point. And any plot holes are ably papered over by Jess Taylor’s outstanding art, which plays with color and layout to augment Jadzia’s script with wonderfully expressive, kinetic illustrations. Overall, Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is a wonderful graphic novel for teens that couches its important discussion of social issues in a light alien-superhero shell. I hope there’ll be more of this title to come.

Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod & Jess Taylor was published May 17 2022 by DC Comics and is available from all good booksellers, including

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