cover image Lights, Planets, People!

Lights, Planets, People!

Molly Naylor and Lizzy Stewart. Avery Hill, $22.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-910395-61-5

This compact graphic novella adaptation of a play by Naylor (Stop Trying to Be Fantastic) bounces gracefully between topics to create a complex character study. Maggie Hill, an astronomer, is panicking about giving a lecture to inspire young women to pursue science, which is juxtaposed with scenes of her attending her first ever therapy session. She’s dealing with mental health issues (she’s bipolar, but more recently afflicted by “these panic attack things”), a breakup she hasn’t gotten over, and taking in the scope of what she’s accomplished in her career as an exoplanet researcher, with regrets both personal and professional. Though she walks out on therapy, she stands as a nuanced portrait of a woman in later life and career. The loose and experimental art combines styles and unusual color choices, such as cream-on-yellow, that can occasionally be jarring (the hand-lettering in the therapy session scene is difficult to parse), but Stewart (Walking Distance) succeeds in evoking the wonders of space, such as the muted watercolors and gouache accented with pen and ink that bring warmth and intensity to renderings of rocket launches. Readers will find the messy intertwining of Maggie’s personal and professional life sympathetic and inspirational. (Sept.)