It is not often that we see graphic novels where the hero is actually a heroine. And it's even rarer for the heroine to be a well-developed character who does not spend half the panels in various stages of undress. This week I came across two graphics aimed at the younger set. The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is actually the third installment in a series by author Ben Hatke and The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope is also the third installment in the Battling Boy series.
Set on an unnamed planet powered by a leviathan The Return of Zita the Spacegirl shows Zita captured by evil forces and thrown into a dungeon where she meets Femur and Ragpile. A mysterious ally then sets her free but then the real adventure begins with planet-moving consequences. Along the way there are some characters who cooperate to help Zita's quest. Some of them are from the two previous installments in the series but like most good trilogies the book keeps moving even though you are not sure what transpired before. This book is epic like Saga (but without the raucnhiness) and action-packed like Amulet. I like the fact that Zita's flaw is that she cares about other people and about all living creatures. As is often the case with any good series even though she saves the day and returns home the door is left open to future adventures. I highly recommend it for young readers.
I had read Paul Pope's other two books in his Battling Boy series a while back and found them to be excellent. When I heard that there was a prequel in the works I simply had to read it. The Rise of Aurora West sees her still under the tutelage of the inimitable Haggard West. She is still coming to terms with the death of her mother under mysterious circumstances a fact which almost destroyed Haggard from the grief and the feeling of powerlessness it left him with. In Battling Boy Haggard is killed and in this book we see the back story behind the villain whose rogue gang terrorizes the city stealing children. Aurora also discovers that her imaginary friend when she was a kid, a being called "Mr. Wurple" was a very real being who has returned now in a more sinister form.
The book is in black and white, very rare for a graphic novel these days but the writing is so compelling that you can't help but turn the pages. Although I thought Aurora would be much more kick ass, this shows however that the journey from teen-aged girl to full-fledged heroine is not without speed bumps. The series' style is a throwback to the golden age of comics and I remember when I read the first book I kept checking to make sure that it wasn't an old series I had somehow overlooked or never heard of.
This book is in the teens section of our library and rightly so. There is some comic violence and weapons used and some of the subject matter could be a little heavy for younger readers. It is so well written though that I for one am on pins and needles waiting for the next installment in the series. In our library it is classified as YAurora1 so I am wondering if this means that there will a series based around her and how she developed into the crime fighter that Battling Boy meets when he arrives on earth. I certainly hope so.