When Zita pushes a mysterious red button, a portal opens and her friend Joseph is yanked through by a set of disembodied tentacles. It takes Zita only minutes to decide to go after him. She lands in a strange and damaged place full of a wide variety of aliens and robots, all looking to escape a looming meteoroid. As Zita searches for her friend, her kindness and bravery inspires the loyalty of a number of new companions, including a con man, a giant mouse, two discarded robots, and a furry giant named Strong Strong. They make a surprisingly promising team, but they have three big problems to solve: 1) Rescue Joseph, 2) Stop the Meteoroid, and 3) Get Zita and Joseph Home.
In her second story, Zita continues to travel the galaxy. Now a beloved hero, she and her friends apparently stop regularly for Zita to meet her fans and give out autographs. When a copycat robot takes on Zita’s appearance, the girl is thrilled to let her double take the spotlight for awhile so she can take a break. Unfortunately, said double likes the role a little too much. With the ship (and robo-Zita) headed off to save another planet, Zita must find her own way to follow. A rash decision makes her a criminal, and public opinion very quickly turns against her. Only with the help of some rather questionable new friends — two of whom have unexpected connections to her shipmates — does Zita have any hope of reclaiming her place and continuing her journey home.
A few weeks ago, as my sister and I reminisced about the space adventure books we’d loved as kids (think Bruce Coville), we realised we couldn’t think of any that centred on girl characters. Zita, sister dear, is our answer. Zita demonstrates a combination of rashness, bravery and ingenuity that suits Coville-esque adventures perfectly, and Hatke does a fantastic job of making not only Zita, but each of her companions, too, unique and sympathetic. Add creative storylines, an imaginatively-populated universe, and rich, detailed environments, and you’ve got a series readers will be eager to share.
Read an interview with Ben Hatke about the books, his process, and the third Zita book!
Check out the Zita page on The Graphic Classroom, a neat site focused on reviewing graphic novels for the classroom and suggesting ways to use each title for teaching.