The curiosity of children is what always leads them to push the big red button. We know you shouldn’t push it. Everyone knows that. But the temptation is so great… Can we really ever help ourselves?
Zita and her friend Joseph are playing outside when a meteor crashes down next to them. Curious, they explore it and discover a big red button! Obviously, the next step is to push the button– and so our adventure begins! The button creates a space rift, and Joseph is pulled in against his will. Ever brave, Zita immediately follows to rescue her wimpy friend. Taken to a new planet on the other side of the solar system adventures ensue as Zita befriends aliens in not just an attempt to save Joseph, but also to find her own way home and hopefully save the planet she is currently on from being destroyed!
Yes, this story is very much like The Wizard of Oz, but set in space. Zita makes it to this mysterious planet only to need to find a different way to get home. She befriends many creatures one at a time who all elect to join her on the adventure to save Joseph. In some obscure way or another.
First in the merry band we have a mouse, named Pizzicato but who hates his name so he just goes by Mouse. Mouse plays the part of a Beatrix Potter-esque mammalian mode of transportation who communicates by printing messages from a machine attached to his collar. Next we meet One, a spherical battle orb with self-esteem issues and a twitchy trigger finger, but who is incredibly loyal. Randy is the cowardly robot who we all know will be more than he seems. Strong Strong who is exactly the character you imagine him to be: A strangely shaped, gigantic, slow-witted alien who is capable of experiencing more emotion than most people and is completely full of love. And finally, we have to wrap up this merry band with the Han Solo-esque character we all don’t know if we can trust to stick around: The Piper.
(For the record, I can’t decide if Mouse, One, or Strong Strong is my favorite character. It might be One.)
While the characters are fairly standard and the adventures which follow suit tend to be a bit predictable, Hatke uses these as tools to immerse the reader into a new world very easily. It felt like reuniting with an old friend. These characters are all fully fleshed out with their own personalities and backstories. With the existing structure from the archetypes built in our heads, these characters can quickly develop their own personalities and importance– something not often seen with side characters in graphic novels.
Zita is also a well-developed character. We know from the start Zita is a brave child. Yet we get to see her grow into the friendships she develops. And unlike the heroines of similar stories, such as Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, Zita is not merely a bystander. She grows and pushes the story forward. The relationships she develops shows us her growth and compassion.
Also unlike Alice and Dorothy, we don’t know why Zita wants to go home. She just keeps saying she needs to. Now, Alice and Dorothy both mention friends, family, and their common lives regularly. Zita’s lack of reasoning is actually refreshing. It feel like she wants to go home because that’s the only logical idea to have. Even she doesn’t know why home is the answer.
Hatke’s art style is one of the reasons I was drawn to this book. It easily combines imagination, humor, action, and world building with little effort. We can easily see the rich history of the planet Zita is stranded on without delving into world politics. A picture is truly worth a thousand words in the hands of Ben Hatke.
Hatke, as any comic book artist/writer worth their salt, makes great use of onomatopoeias. In a classic comic book way, the onomatopoeias visually depict how the sound is moving as well as sharing with the reader what is going on. Plus the overall variety of them is staggering. Typically, these are part of the background “noise” and I don’t often directly read them– I let the onomatopoeias season the scene in the background. But in this book, I found that I read them all, just to clearly see the variety.
All in all, this is a fantastic and complete story. It really touched me in a way graphic novels have not done for a while. I recommend this to anyone who has a sense of humor or a sense of adventure.
What do you think?
- Have you read any of Ben Hatke’s works? What do you think?
- Do you like to read graphic novels?
- Have you ever picked up a book/comic purely due the art? Have you ever been disappointed based on that choice?