The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is Ben Hatke's bittersweet conclusion to his fantastic trilogy of outer space adventure. We find Zita imprisoned on the Dungeon World, sentenced there by a cruel villain with an ulterior motive. Zita has saved thousands of aliens and planets galore, but now Zita will need her friends help in saving her.
Over the past two volumes, Zita the Spacegirl and Legend of Zita the Spacegirl, we have met many friends. There's the giant mouse Pizzacato, the military robot One, and a sweet alien hulk known as Strong Strong among others. Also lurking in the shadows of the Dungeon World is a mysterious cloaked figure. He follows Zita, but whose side he is on is anyone's guess.
Zita's friends all have their own strengths, but they'll have to work together in order to stop the Dungeon Lord and save Zita along with the planet Earth!
Our titular spacegirl is one of the best female heroes I've ever seen anywhere, and Hatke's visual panache has only gotten stronger. His images not only inform the reader, but they are also gorgeous to look at. His creatures are funny and so inventive. In this volume we meet a sentient rag pile and a skeleton whose pinky finger can unlock every door.
In terms of tone, this is the darkest volume of the series. I suggest reading the books in order for the sake of continuity. Elementary school-aged girls will love seeing a character like them at the center of these action-packed books. Parents will be happy to see Zita fighting for and learning what is right along the way.
When I recommended the first Zita book to a group of kids, the boys initially balked at the idea of reading about a girl character, but a couple of them grabbed it. A few weeks later, everyone in that group wanted his or her own copy to read. It's just that good.
Fans looking for more from Hatke can follow his blog to find details of his latest work, as well as his hilarious Little Robot comic strips that will eventually be turning into their own collected volume. Zita's tale may be done, but hopefully we should be seeing more adventure, humor, and robots for years to come!