Comic Solutions

Book Review: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

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The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
Bet Hatke
First Second
May 2014

A few weeks ago I posted my favorite thing about Zita the Spacegirl, but neglected to actually post my review!  And I bow my head in shame for letting it lapse this long.  So without further ado…my review.

I remember discovering Zita in webcomic format several years ago and being entranced, not only with the character of Zita and the adventures she took, but Ben’s incredible artwork as well.  And I was thrilled when Ben and First Second began publishing full length Zita adventure stories, of how she became the hero that we know.  I’ve watched her grow from a young woman that was frightened but went into the unknown to save her friend to…well still a young woman, but one that became known throughout the galaxy for her good deeds and became a hero that this world sorely needed.  And while this is the final volume in the Zita trilogy, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she, and her friends, have not stopped their journeys and are fighting the good fight still.

Zita has saved friends, planets, battled monsters, and dealt with interplanetary fame. But now she faces her biggest challenge yet. Prison! Those that she saved have turned against her and the warden of the penitentiary planet has turned all of her good deeds against her and thrown her into jail.  But Zita…Zita is a hero through and through.  Even at rock bottom she still helps others, even when she is put in more danger.  And when she is given the chance to escape with the help of an old friend, Zita stands tall to help others first.  Because the Warden is on a quest for interstellar domination and Zita maybe the only able to stand up to him.  It will take all of her skills and all of her friends to come together to make one last stand upon the penitentiary planet and save the universe….one last time.

Whenever I read a series I always wonder…will this volume still hold surprises and twists and turns?  Because it gets difficult sometimes to have characters grow and change without resorting to the same type of story line that was used before.  Ben though…Ben took me down a path in this third volume, that I could have never imagined.  We were reintroduced to an old friend from the first volume, and we saw a band of merry wanders join together for one last charge. It was like being on a good roller coaster ride, one that keeps you on the edge of your seat and cheering Zita on as she makes her way across the universe with good surprises waiting for you just around the bend. Ben shows us the impact that Zita has had on those around her and just how much she has grown up during the course of this series. It’s a powerful statement, not of girl power, but of believing in yourself and standing up for what you believe in. The fact that Zita is a brave, average, extraordinary, girl should not be remarkable, but in this world sadly it is. But we can take heart in the fact that she feels like she could be our best friend, our sister, our niece, or any one of a hundred people we meet in this world.

Ben’s artwork remains captivating, for the young and old alike. He wields colors deftly, creating masterful illusions of shadows and light, such as at the circus where colors spin madly in the air. The characters dance on the pages as they rush about the universe helping to save it. In many ways the design of the characters reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibbli’s work. The design of the spaceports is sure to keep readers enthralled as they look at the detail in the work. And the character design will keep readers captivated wondering what the next person we meet will look like.

I hope one day in the future we get to see Zita again. This is, and has been, an absolutely fantastic series, with such great characters and depth to them. While Zita may be a hero, she is someone that we can all aspire to be more like. And I will treasure the stories that we have of her. I highly recommend this series to young and old alike. I give this volume 5 out of 5 stars as we say farewell to her for now.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

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