Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Zita and her friend Joseph are playing out in a field when they discover a meteorite which contains a funny little device with a button. It opens a portal, and Joseph is immediately dragged in by some long tentacles—so then Zita hops in after him. That’s how the story starts, and from there it’s a wonderful ride through a world filled with colorful (both literally and figuratively) characters. Weird gnomish guys who live inside water pipes, a crotchety taskmaster who floats along with no legs, a big golem-like creature, a giant sentient rat and lots of robots. Oh, and there’s a funny little battle orb named One (the red and gray guy on the cover) who reminds me a bit of the robots from The Black Hole.
Zita the Spacegirl is a joy to read. Zita is brave and clever, but also relies on the friends that she makes in this bizarre new world. The plot—finding Joseph and rescuing him from his kidnappers—is exciting and the ending was not what I was expecting, but the best part of the book is just poring over the all the creatures and details that Hatke puts into the world. He’s got a real knack for making up aliens and you’ll find yourself wanting more when you finish the book.
Speaking of Hatke, he’s a bit of a geek dad himself. He’s got “an unruly pack of daughters” who both inspire him and interfere with his work—but based on Zita the Spacegirl he’s done quite well working while they run around him. He wrote a great little article talking about making comics at home while surrounded by his kids (who are homeschooled).
If you’ve got kids who like science fiction and comics, Zita the Spacegirl is a good mix of action and humor. (Note: there is a good bit of cartoon violence, maybe a little less than, say, Star Wars.) For a preview of Hatke’s style, check out the Zita webcomics on his site.
Note: I received a review copy of Zita the Spacegirl from First Second Books.