Zita and her friend Joseph find a contraption in a crater a meteoroid leaves behind. Zita does the fool thing and pushes the red button. Joseph is pulled through a tear, and Zita determinedly follows (after experiencing some shame for his disappearance).
In what is certain to be the first of many Zita the Spacegirl books, Zita must rescue Joseph and find a way back home. She makes some interesting friends and finds herself negotiating peril with the usual heroic type aplomb while refreshingly escaping the formulaic.
Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl is cute. The series promises to be a fun diversion, caught somewhere between the serious complex adventure in Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series (Graphix/Scholastic) and the goofball antics of The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krozocska. And while Raina Telgemeier and Hope Larson are publishing great comics for girls, Zita will give girl comic readers some adventure/sci fi stories worth getting excited about; although, this is not to say boys won’t enjoy Zita.
The artwork is more expressive than I had counted on after the initial quick flip throughout. There are plenty of energetic lines and lettering, but there is also a patience, a number of sequences of silent and heavy frames. This comic book hero (even after getting that cape) is spared garish colors, disproportion, and explosive and chaotic panels.
There is plenty of movement, and Hatke doesn’t hold strictly to frame or squares, allowing the story to dictate the page layout, comfortable with not needing to be clever or experimental for experiment’s sake. The colors are nice; the alien creatures, robotic or no are wonderful. Hatke relies heavily on the artwork, understanding the strength of it, and that is where the wit in Zita lies. Yet he doesn’t neglect the story. Hatke appropriately complicates an otherwise straightforward premise. He drives home the courage it takes to be a good friend in difficult circumstances, the potential sacrifices, the presence of fear—this deftly layered amidst the adventure, sparing the reader overt telegraphing. The characterizations are quick, but not underdeveloped, room for growth and intrigue as the series embarks. In the end, Zita the Spacegirl is well-rounded, clean, without being too predictable.
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2010. 184 pages, hardcover
“The Graphic Classroom,” another of Chris’ excellent reviews.
Aside: First Second has created a marvelous catalog of books, I am going to try to work through their collection. Which returns me to the sad thought I had the other day, browsing the Library site: I miss Washington and Multnomah County (Portland) Libraries and their amazing collection of comics/graphic novels, Indie or no.