Zita the Spacegirl

January 18, 2017
Zita the Spacegirl Book Cover Zita the Spacegirl
Zita the Spacegirl, #1
Ben Hatke
Science Fiction
First Second
February 1st, 2011
Graphic Novel
192
Library

Zita's life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don't even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita's quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at. 

(via Goodreads)

 

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. But, by the end of the book, Zita realizes that just being home isn’t everything. It’s the journey that matters. Spaceships, anyone?

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?

12 Comments

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea January 18, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Humor and adventure with some very adorable graphics! I love that it reminded you of Oz. Cannot complain about that. Appropriate age range?

    • Jackie B January 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      I’d say 8 and up? I don’t think the story is too challenging, but there might be some things about getting lost that younger children might struggle with. I strongly recommend it. 🙂

  • gargoylebruce January 18, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve got Return of Zita the Space Girl sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but I haven’t read this one yet! I’ll bump it up my list

    • Jackie B January 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

      This is the first of the series, so I’d read this one first. 😉 There are actually some reviews on Goodreads which point out that they read Return first since it was unclear these are serial books.
      I hope you enjoy them!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom January 22, 2017 at 8:26 am

    The Wizard of Oz in space! I actually think my son would enjoy this one. He is a reluctant reader, but I can usually get him to read graphic novels.

    • Jackie B January 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      It’s really cute. I hope that he takes to it! Zita is an adorable heroine.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife January 23, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    This seems like a lot of fun – a good one to keep in mind during my quest for reading more middle-grade books!

    • Jackie B January 24, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      It is a ton of fun! I hope that you pick it up on your quest and you find it enjoyable. I look forward to your review.

  • cw @ readthinkponder January 26, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Holy moly, this book sounds like a lot of fun! The artwork is adorable and I find it really really charming despite the simplicity? and ahh, this sounds like something for me. I’ve been reading more MG novels ever since I read Flying Lessons and Other Stories, so I’ll have to give this a go! Thanks for the fantastic review, Jackie!!

    • Jackie B January 26, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      It’s SUPER adorable and charming. You are *not* wrong there. 🙂 I hope that you do try it out. There is a whole trilogy, and they start to get into even deeper morals and themes, but this starts off super adorable and fun. I would definitely recommend it.

  • Read Diverse Books January 28, 2017 at 2:50 am

    The Wizard Of Oz set in space — love it!! The art style is so charming and pleasing to the eye. And I love Zita and her wimpy friend already 🙂 Her merry band of friends is so cool too. At first glance, I thought One was a Pokeball, haha, but I was wrong. This graphic novel does sound wonderful and perfect for all ages.

    • Jackie B January 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      He does look quite a bit like a Pokeball, now that you mention it… 😉

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