Going into The Return of Zita The Spacegirl I knew that it was the third book in a series, but nothing else outside of that. I certainly didn’t know Zita or her supporting cast, but as all good books series tend to do I was introduced to the world of Zita while reading this new adventure from creator Ben Hatke. Let me first tell you something about Ben Hatke… he’s a dangerous creator. I was sucked in quickly by this story and its conclusion only made me want to go back and read the previous two volumes so that A) I would know what happened in the story previously and B) just so I could read more. I also just read Hatke’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and it too was amazing. There is just something about a creator that has a versatile art style and can also tell great stories. I’m telling you, dude is dangerous.
The story opens with Zita in front of a kangaroo court. She’s being convicted of crimes that were actually acts of heroism like blowing up a comet too close to a planet… that it was going to destroy. Every charge that follows is similar, but the brilliance of this is that it gives new readers like myself an idea of her previous adventures before this adventure even starts. Eventually they bring out Mouse and sentence it to death and Zita can’t take the court anymore. She’s sentenced to the mines of the planet. All of her goodies are taken from her and a star that she had in her possession is ripped up. That star though, it comes into play later.
Zita ends up in her cell eventually where she meets a pile of rags that have become animated and go by the name of Ragpile and a talking skeleton by the name of Femur. They are Zita’s guides, as well as ours, to Dungeon World. Zita begins attempting to break out almost instantly even though Femur tells her it’s impossible to escape (point in case he’s a skeleton whose bones have been fashioned into keys). She has some help though as a hooded figure begins assisting her escape. Zita almost makes it, but her conscience gets the best of her when she sees a Leviathan trapped and being used to keep the planet together. She has another similar attempt, but eventually she ends up giving in and working in the mines. Giving in for the moment that is because she is the hero of our story after all.
The story is wonderful. You really get a sense of Zita’s compassion and heroism from the very beginning. There’s a part where she’s accused of stealing a space ship and you can tell from her reaction that that one was an actual crime, but one she feels bad about. Zita is the person that everyone should strive to be and a positive influence for child or young adult that may be reading the story.
Hatke’s dialogue is spot on for the story. It’s not too heavy, it’s light-hearted and fun for the most part and there’s tons of humor. This is a book you read with a big goofy grin on your face nearly the entire time. While it’s funny it’s also very serious and in fact one scene later on between the hooded stranger and Zita was extremely serious. Hatke exceeded at making the conversation grounded in the real world as the character’s emotions were very real and justifiable for the situation. I just never expected it to get that serious, but it made for a much better story.
I would love to see the earlier volumes just to see if Hatke has being growing over the course of the series or if he’s been thing good from the beginning. Looking at the covers you can see minor improvements so I do wonder. His art is magical for this story. Parts of it feel like Doctor Who inspired while others could be plucked from any number of science fiction. His character and creature designs also give off a similar vibe of familiarity, but they really bear no outright comparison to anything else. More than anything the art is cute. It’s really good, but it’s cute. I couldn’t help but find Mouse adorable or even the living rocks with big googly eyes. The art was cute for sure, but it also played to the serious moments as well.
This is a strange side note, but the paper stock is incredible. I was shocked to see how low the price was just because the paper was so nice. First Second has replaced Archaia as the premier publisher that cares about the aesthetics of the book as much as they care about the product inside as well.
I was a little gun-shy going into this story since I hadn’t read the first two volumes, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I wouldn’t be left out in the dark. Let me tell you that’s something that big name publishers and creators can’t do and yet Ben Hatke executes it flawlessly here. I’m telling you that man’s dangerous, but also one to keep an eye on. If you have kids that you’re trying to get into comics or even just to read I would definitely put this in front of them, but be prepared to pick up the other volumes as well. I know I will be.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Ben Hatke Publisher: First Second Books Price: $12.99 Release Date: 5/13/14