Friday, August 15, 2014

Graphic Novel Series Review: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #1)  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.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Science fiction is a genre that can tackle some pretty heavy issues when it’s taken on in young adult or adult literature.  I was initially drawn to Zita the Spacegirl because I liked the idea that it was light-hearted, kid friendly, and adventurous. I got a story that not only had all of these things but was also bursting with creativity.

Hatke’s worldbuilding in this book is really excellent.  Right away we meet a lot of interesting characters and creatures as Zita embarks on her new adventure.  The way they’re illustrated is, like the burb says, reminiscent of Miyazaki, and is also very whimsical.  Everything from animals to robots to humans are featured as characters. There are a few creepy and scary elements, and they’re done in a way that got under my skin, which is definitely a compliment.  Zita is an adventurous and spunky character—she’s the type of person I would not mind getting lost in space with.  She’s also a quick learner, which makes for an engaging read.
Book one of this series ends on a total cliffhanger.  While I like to anticipate the second book of a series, I also really think that each volume in a series should feel complete on its own.  Hatke gets away with it here—Zita is so well done that I desperately wanted more.  Still, if he had tied up just a few more loose ends at the end of this first volume, that would have been okay.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #2)  Fame comes at a price...  

Zita must find her way back to earth...but her space adventures have made her a galactic megastar! Who can you trust when your true self is overshadowed by your public image? And to make things worse...Zita's got a robot double making trouble--while wearing her face!  

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Initially, I had kind of a hard time getting excited about Legends of Zita the Spacegirl.  I wasn’t expecting this story to take the direction that it did, or for it to pick up in the place that it did.  Luckily everything about it delighted me even more than the first book did.

Perhaps it sounds silly, but there’s a bit more of a focus on the actual stars here, and I loved that.  The way Hatke illustrates stars, comets, and planets is colorful and realisitic, while still making us feel like Zita is in a vast universe.  Speaking of the universe, I loved that we got to meet even more types of aliens here, and I thought they were all delightful.  There are things that feel inspired by Dr. Seuss and things that feel inspired by a darker sci fi, such as Alien, yet despite having all these different life forms, it never feels as though Hatke is trying to do too much with his world.

Also?  This book had a storyline that concluded by the time the book was done.  There was still an overarching storyline, and as a reader I knew that there were more adventures to be had and another book to tie things up.

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #3)Ben Hatke brings back our intrepid space heroine for another delightful sci-fi/fantasy adventure in this New York Times‑Bestselling graphic novel trilogy for middle grade readers. 

Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters, and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy's greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!   

(Summary from GoodReads) 

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is the last book in this series and it made me genuinely sad that it’s over.  I got to see so many of my favorite characters again and see the storyline continued.  This book made me wish that more Zita was coming, and it made me want to give this trilogy to all of my library patrons.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two characters who are new favorites of mine: Raggy and Femur.  They made me laughed and I loved that Hatke continued building on the world as Zita saw more and more of it.  Perhaps moreso than other characters, these two showed that Hatke can write pretty snappy dialogue.

The ending of the series was great.  I got to see plot threads tied up and lots of old friends return.  The ending both delighted me and made me go “Agggh I need more!”  You’ll understand when you read it.  In the end, though, Hatke sends a great message to his readers: just because you grow up doesn’t mean you need to stop having adventures.



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