Wednesday, February 8, 2012
GN Review -- Zita the Spacegirl / Ben Hatke
Zita and her friend Joseph are playing around in a field when they discover a crater containing a mysterious device. On a whim, Zita activates the device, triggering a freak surge of energy that grabs Joseph and pulls him through before quickly closing. Initially horrified at what’s happened, Zita resolves to activate the device again and go after Joseph, who wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for her.
Stepping through, she finds herself transported to a faraway planet, with a plethora of alien beings on it and no immediate way back home. After helping a man called Piper, he agrees to help her find Joseph, and soon begins her quest. Encountering hardships and obstacles on her way to the castle where her friend is being held, Zita also finds allies and friends who help her as she helps them.
I have to applaud Hatke’s writing in this story. Zita is a likable character, whose impetuous act of pushing a button sets into motion a chain of events that require her to face up to what she did and rescue her friend Joseph. The characters she encounters eventually form a ragtag group of underdogs whose attachment to the heroine, while brief, still packs an emotional resonance that creates some key moments near the end of the story. The relationships grow and evolve through the narrative, and the quest itself is both harrowing and entertaining.
Zita’s adventure is an entertaining caper that reminded me very strongly of the movie Labyrinth in terms of its structure and overall plot. There’s a girl rescuing someone who was taken away to a distant realm by her actions, she encounters people along the way who form a small but determined band of friends to help her, and there are several character types in this story who closely resemble the characters from Labyrinth. Zita is Sarah, Piper resembles Hoggle in his initial cowardice and eventual courageous redemption, Strong-Strong is like Ludo in his strength and simple gentleness, while One is much like Didymus in his bravado and hilarious general ineffectiveness at combat.
Hatke’s art is a cartoon style that is ostensibly simple, yet surprisingly detailed and imaginative when applied to various characters. It leaves a lot of room for expressiveness and tone, effectively making some scenes very cute and amusing, and others more sinister and intense. He also displays great versatility in designing humans, aliens, and beings of all types to take the reader far away from Earth along with his heroine.
Overall, I found this to be a very charming work, full of action, adventure, and heart. It’s an excellent story for children, but I think anyone of any age who gives this story a try will find it surprisingly transcendent of its intended market. Highly recommended.