Saturday, April 28, 2012

GN Review -- Legends of Zita the Spacegirl / Ben Hatke

Anyone who thinks there are no good children's comics out there clearly hasn't read this blog.  My latest entry in support of the case for such comics is a sequel, Ben Hatke's forthcoming graphic novel Legends of Zita the Spacegirl.  He proves that the success of his first outing, Zita the Spacegirl, was no fluke, and continues the story of his intrepid young heroine with the same aplomb displayed in the first book.

A little bit of time has passed since Zita's adventure on the planet Scriptorius, long enough for her to become famous for the event and hailed as a hero wherever she goes.  All the attention and adoration begins to wear on her, making it easy for her to agree to switch places with a robot that has taken on her appearance.  When the robot decides it wants to replace her, Zita is suddenly thrust into a sudden case of identity theft on a cosmic scale, becoming a criminal and needing the help of a mysterious woman named Madrigal, who has a connection to her traveling companion, Piper.

I don't know what it is Hatke does, but he's never failed to elicit a significant emotional response from me when I read these stories.  It's very easy to connect with his characters and root for them, to the point that you're laughing at some of the humorous situations they're in even as you're fighting the urge to tear up as they endure their current travails and hardships.  He does a great job of making his characters not only likable, but believable.  Zita, for all her bravery and charm, is at her simplest, a girl struggling to get home, trapped in a situation that is consistently unfamiliar and frightening.

Artistically, Hatke proves as adept at visually depicting his characters as he is at writing them.  Employing a simple, clean cartoon style, he depicts a wide range of characters, imbuing them with emotion and depth, no matter if they're human, robot, alien, or over-large animal.  His settings and scenery also vary in scale, from wide-ranging planetscapes to the relatively cramped quarters of a spaceship.  It's all believable and it's all good, making an ideal backdrop for the characters to play in.

Overall, this is an excellent work, for children and adults alike.  The characters are likable, the artwork is simple yet visually appealing, and the story is a well-told tale of separation from and return to your extended family.  It leaves the door wide open for more books, and I for one already can't wait for them. Highly recommended.

This review of Legends of Zita the Spacegirl is written from an advance reader copy (ARC).  It is scheduled to be released on September 4, 2012.

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