All-ages science fiction graphic novel, written and illustrated by cartoonist Ben Hatke and published by First Second Books in 2010.
Our lead character is an adventuresome little girl named Zita. Our story starts when Zita and her nervous friend Joseph find a meteorite with a small push-button machine inside. When they push the button, a hole opens up in space and tentacles drag Joseph away. When Zita finally stirs up the courage to pursue, she finds herself on a distant planet filled with thousands of bizarre aliens. And Joseph is being held captive and set to be sacrificed by scary monster aliens. And the push-button device gets broken so she can't get home. And the whole planet is going to be blown up by an asteroid. Can Zita and Joseph find a way back home? Can Zita save a whole planet all by herself?
Well, maybe she could, but she has lots of help anyway, from a variety of strange outcast aliens she meets along the way. There's Pizzicato, a giant mouse; Strong-Strong, a very strong but fairly dim alien; Piper, a reluctantly helpful humanoid with a spaceship -- but no fuel; Lady Madrigal, the owner of a traveling circus with a past history with Piper; a vengeance-obsessed battle robot called One; and Randy, a frightened, broken robot who still wants to help. But they’re still not much of an army against an alien conspiracy, greedy con men, powerful and cruel robot foes, and again, a giant asteroid that’s set the destroy everything in mere days.
It's probably not a great spoiler that Zita and her friends are able to stop the asteroid, and that Zita's adventures continued, first in "Legends of Zita the Spacegirl" in 2012, in which Zita grows weary of her newfound fame and persuades a doppelganger robot to take her place -- at least until she gets left behind by all her friends, and then by "The Return of Zita the Spacegirl" in 2014, which finds Zita on the wrong side of the law, trying to escape imprisonment and foil an invasion of Earth itself. In each book, her enemies keep getting tougher -- but on the bright side, she's so charismatic and brave, she has no trouble finding new friends and allies to help her.
I greatly enjoyed these incredibly fun and charming books. The characterization is grand, with villains you love to hate and heroes you love to love -- even as their personality quirks may infuriate you. The action is great, the suspense is frequently incredible, and the wonders and challenges Zita encounters are sometimes absolutely awe-inspiring -- in terms of both "That's fantastic!" and "That's terrifying!"
And I absolutely love Hatke's art in these books. His style is cartoony, open, friendly, even welcoming. That's part of what makes the comics such page-turners, because you want to absorb more and more of his art. He's also great at depicting some of the incredible scale of these alien worlds and especially the dangers of Zita's worst enemies. His design work is outstanding, too -- Zita comes across as gloriously iconic -- white costume, bold black "Z" design on the front, and a glorious green cape. I've known more than one person whose kids read and loved the books, then insisted on dressing as Zita for Halloween -- her outfit is simple to create and eye-catchingly appealing, too.
The Zita books are wonderful, quick-reading all-ages comics, perfect for kids to read on their own, for parents to read to younger kids, or even for adults who enjoy audacious sci-fi derring-do. Go seek them out!