Galaxy: The Prettiest Star – Jadzia Axelrod, Writer; Jess Taylor, Artist; Cris Peter, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: DC’s young adult OGN line has been another great outpost of their growing LGBT representation, with strong focus for characters including Jackson Hyde, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn in recent years. Joining them now is Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, an original story featuring a new protagonist taking place in the DCU and aiming to be the first trans-centric story in the OGN line. The twist is, this doesn’t focus on a trans character per se—it’s a rather clever allegory created by an all-trans creative team. It’s the tale of Taylor, an ordinary high school student—who is actually an alien princess, deep undercover after fleeing an alien invasion that killed her parents. And on Earth, she uses a magic stone to become an unassuming teenage boy.
This is one of the most clever setups for a story I’ve seen in a long time. The “family unit” that makes up the main characters includes Taylor, her bodyguard Phil (who was a general on their home planet and is sworn to protect the princess) and two fellow refugees, one an innocent young girl and one a sullen older teen. While on the surface they pretend to be a normal single-dad family, there is a lot of tension under the surface. This has a lot in common with refugee and immigrant narratives, and these characters are nicely complex. Taylor’s main friend is a fellow basketball player at school, but he’s—and this is made clear early on—kind of a lout. He’s a typical teenage boy who seems nice until pushed, and then he’s one second away from saying a slur.
Axelrod and Taylor do an amazing job of putting us inside Taylor’s head in the early parts of the story. I was a little skeptical about the use of aliens and shapeshifting as an allegory for the trans experience—I’m not part of the community, but I’ve heard many in it expressing complaints about the number of shapeshifters and aliens used as trans/NB representation. This isn’t one of those cases. Seeing the story from Taylor’s perspective, it’s a brilliant depiction of dysphoria as Taylor deals with being placed in a different body against her will and being expected to perform gender on a daily basis. The pressure from her “Family” to make their sacrifice worth it only adds to the stress she feels regularly.
And then comes Kat Silverberg, a force of nature who immediately becomes Taylor’s most important confidant. A Black-Jewish (based on the name) lesbian and amputee with a harsh past, she’s clearly used to being herself and not letting people define her. That gives Taylor the push she needs to reveal herself, and it kicks off a series of events that put the years-long ruse into jeopardy. The romance between the two leads is genuine and warm, in a way that reminds me far more of classic YA OGNs like “The Prince and the Dressmaker” than it does other DC OGNs. The first half of this book is stunning.
The second half left me with more questions, but I suspect that was intentional. Galaxy: The Prettiest Star does take place in the DCU—Superman is referenced frequently, but never seen. It centers around an alien race—or two—that we’ve never seen before. Taylor’s true form is the only alien we see in this story, but the descriptions are unique. The fan favorite character will no doubt be Argus, a high-tech techno-organic monitoring device that serves as Taylor’s bodyguard while in the form of a chubby corgi. Easily the best companion an alien girl could ask for—if a bit of a narc. But the story raises a lot of questions about Taylor’s past and what comes next—and doesn’t really answer them or feel interested in answering them.
That’s because at around the two-thirds mark, this becomes a completely different book. Without spoiling too much, the trans element of this book feels subtle and emotional for the first part of this story. Around the two-thirds mark, it becomes much more explicit and much more of a difficult read. It still uses a fantasy veneer, but it aims to put us directly in Taylor’s eyes as she experiences brutal, dehumanizing, hateful bigotry both from those you would expect it from—and people she thought she could trust. This book doesn’t want to give easy answers or reassurances. It gives people the chance to be better and then has them slam that door in your face. And above all, it lets Taylor feel the rage she deserves as the world pushes back against her existence.
The ending is a little abrupt, leaves many things unanswered, and doesn’t provide assurances that things are getting better so much as make a statement that the best thing trans kids can do is find their people and keep fighting. It’s not always an easy book to read, but it’s an incredibly passionate one and that comes off every single page. I think it’s going to earn a prominent place in DC’s OGN library.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.