Allison's Book Bag

Legends of Zita The Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Posted on: April 10, 2013

On the fence about graphic novels? Legends of Zita The Spacegirl by Ben Hatke might help you hop off and take sides. This reworked classic tale of two look-alikes who trade places proved a surprisingly enjoyable experience with its modern twist and implicit message about identity.

When Zita’s space adventures thrust her into the spotlight, she doesn’t take any pleasure in it because fame comes with a price. Everyone views her as a hero who can save their particular planet from danger. Then along comes an outcast Imprint-o-Tron (robot) with the ability to imitate Zita’s appearance. Zita takes advantage of this nameless robot to temporarily escape the public eye by switching places, except the joke is on Zita when the robot refuses to switch back.

By this point, I’m thinking this is a modern updating of The Prince and the Pauper, the first novel which I read which used this trick. As in Mark Twain’s version, both Zita and her robot clone use their experiences in each other’s shoes to make decisions about their future. In doing so, they also make choices about the type of girls/robots that they wish to be. Sometimes an adventure story is just an adventure story. What makes Legends of Zita The Spacegirl stand apart is that its whole is greater than all its parts. In other words, beneath its space travel comic format is a story with enduring substance.


As for its space travel comic format, it isn’t so bad either! What stood out most to me is how much, in contrast with traditional text-based novels, I enjoyed the action scenes. Most of the time, I tend to skim long passages about fights. In Zita The Spacegirl, battles never felt dull, because they translated to colorful pictures of enemy skirmishes accompanied by the words: “Boom!” “She’s strong!” “Skree”. This isn’t to say the battle scenes were the parts I liked best, but simply that perhaps for me graphic novels are the best way for me to read them. Kudos to Hatke in also creating reflective moments, funny moments, and all those other kinds of moments I have grown to love in my traditional text-based novels.


One of the reasons my reluctant readers gave me for liking Legends of Zita The Spacegirl is: “I can read it!” For them, most books are an arduous chore of trying to sound out and understand each and every last word, with the hope that they can make sense enough of the story to answer questions about it for an assignment. In contrast, for me, trying to read a book predominantly by pictures feels like my own exercise of frustration. Thank you, Ben Hatke, for reminding me that comic books (and therefore graphic novels) can be fun!

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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