Zita the Spacegirl starts with Zita and her best friend Joseph being thrown through a portal to a bizarre and distant planet. It turns out the planet is doomed, but a sect of natives believe that Joseph is prophesied to save them. Zita, alone and in over her head, sets out to rescue him.
From there the story explodes. Action, drama, and some fascinating twists keep the comic rolling along. The art is sketchy but dynamic, and the characters are wonderfully engaging and likable. It says something about the writing when such a large cast fails to feel crowded – everyone gets a purpose and a chance to shine. Author/artist Ben Hatke has a deft hand for characterization and drops just enough detail to let his audience fill in the blanks.
The characters manage to feel both fresh and familiar to fans of science fiction. There’s a charming rogue a la Han Solo, his furry and loyal companion (who happens to be a giant mouse), a grandiose killer robot, a dim but sweet and loyal giant and many others. But the biggest presence in the story is Zita herself, who rises to meet every challenge with tenacity, creativity and compassion. I found myself cheering for her at every turn.
Despite the book’s intended audience, there are some dark aspects. Death, conflict and abuse of power feature heavily in the series, particularly in the third book. Some scenes are intense enough to concern young or particularly sensitive children (and adults) and likable characters occasionally suffer terrible fates. Despite this, the sense of hope pervading the series is strong enough to feel that everything’s going to be okay. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading and can think of several kids I’ll be lending these copies to.
Hatke, B. (2012). Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. New York, NY: First Second.
Hatke, B. (2014). Return of Zita the Spacegirl. New York, NY: First Second.
Hatke, B. (2010). Zita the Spacegirls. New York, NY: First Second.