Review: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl / Author: Ben Hatke / Artist: Ben Hatke/ Publisher: First Second / Release Date: May 13th
Given how large and important the comic book industry has become, you can be forgiven if you have forgotten their main purpose is to be fun. The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is one of those books that combines a good story with the sort of cartoon-like fun that should be a part of anyone’s childhood.
This final part of the trilogy sees the titular Zita thrown into jail by The Dungeon Lord, thanks to a list of trumped up charges. When Zita works out that she has been deceived, she hatches an audacious escape plan and given that this is a book that is as much about the humour as it is about the plot, it takes more than one attempt. Of course there is a dastardly conspiracy to be thwarted, old friends to be rescued and a variety of twists and turns that draw the reader into a child-like world full of adventure and strange-looking aliens.
Hatke’s art style is incredibly charming and goes hand in hand with his warm and clever writing style. This is a book filled with cute creatures and funny-looking heroes and yet somehow it avoids being saccharine or condescending. What Hatke has done is evoked that feeling of family fun and engagement that a good Pixar or Studio Ghibli movie gives you and Zita’s world feels every bit as real and believable as that of Kiki’s Delivery Service or Toy Story. There are also various visual puns throughout the book that lend strength to the humour of the work and this is a deceptively deep and clever book of the sort that will delight adults and cause children to read it again and again.
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl works well as a standalone story though obviously it contains spoilers for the previous two books in the series (and you’re better off reading those first.) If you don’t like cute family fare then this won’t be for you, but if you're into stories that appeal to the entire family or if there’s a budding sci-fi geek in your life who’s just getting into the weird world of comics then you should give Hatke’s work a look, this book especially.