Zita is young girl (I’d guess around 10) who gets whisked away to wild adventures in space where she survives with courage, daring, and a number of friends she makes along the way. In this, it reminds me strongly of Mark Crilley’s Akiko, especially as they both are well-written adventures that kids will enjoy just as much as adults, but where Akiko tends to be quiet and thoughtful, Zita is headstrong and rambunctious (“Grabbing my notebook out of my hand isn’t ‘finder’s keepers'”).

A very good touch is that Zita doesn’t immediately throw herself into adventure. When she presses a red button on a strange device, and a portal opens and something reaches out and grabs her friend Joseph… she runs away. She has a very human reaction, and only later goes back and reopens the portal to throw herself in and rescue him. From there, there’s the usual ‘stranger in a strange land’ bit, as Zita lands in an alien city, has problems, runs into both nasty and nice people (and lots of indifferent ones), while getting one glimpse of Joseph.

The initial adventure wraps up in the first book, but Zita actually getting home takes the next two as well. As with anything, it’s hard to follow up a strong beginning, but the second and third books are just shy of the first one, and do a great job developing Zita and allowing her to get herself into trouble. The ending of the trilogy leaves things open for more stories, though at the moment Hatke has sadly moved on to other projects (which I will have to try out soon).

A highlight of the series is Hatke’s ability to design all sorts of odd creatures and whimsical places (which also reminds me of Akiko), and he also understands when to pull back and have a quiet moment contemplating the scenery. This is my favorite new discovery I’ve had in a while, and highly recommend it.