Like all Galactic Republic kids her age, robot-obsessed and stubbornly independent Liz is being groomed to become part of the inescapable Republic’s conquering machine. But after her grandma was executed for being a rebel, and one of her best friends’ parents was arrested on similar charges, Liz and her two BFFs aren’t so sure they like the stinky Republic all that much. So they spend their time off school sitting in their rooftop hideout, gossiping about their fart of a teacher.
When Liz finds an old and snarky space drone in her grandad’s basement, she repairs them and accidentally runs into a Republic spaceship while testing their Teleport to Space function. Now, her drone is Republic enemy no. 1, and Liz can’t help but wonder if her skills could help save her friend’s parents before they meet the same fate as her grandma.
LIZ BUILDS A SPACE DRONE SQUAD is a stand-alone 200-page middle-grade science fiction graphic novel with series potential. Think WITCH HAT ATELIER meets BIG HERO 6. Readers who liked CLEOPATRA IN SPACE and ZITA THE SPACEGIRL might also enjoy Liz’s story.
The story goes that Liz could hold a screwdriver before she could walk. Now that she’s 11, she’s still tinkering on robots, whether at school, at home, or her grandad’s place. Otherwise, she can be found hanging out with her two best friends, Abi and Cass. They do normal Galactic Republic girl things, like hosting tea parties and gossiping about their school teacher, the strict Officer Wickt. Officer Wickt trains the three friends and their classmates to become the next generation of patriots and conquerors at Pravustown’s Military Academy for Young Patriots. Liz has no issues fitting in at the school, with its slogan of “Self-Reliance is the Secret to Survival”: her independence borders on foolishness. But that’s not the case for Cass. Her love for cooperation and helping others has put her in Officer Wickt’s bad books.
Meanwhile, Liz’s grandma was arrested and executed for being a member of the Equalists rebel group—a group bent on overthrowing the government for a more equal society. Like Liz, her grandad is slowly coming to terms with the double life her grandma led. Grandad can’t help to wonder if he would have been able to save her life if she had just shared the burden. At the same time, Abi’s dad got arrested for being an Equalist member too. Abi doesn’t know what will happen to him, and she is sad and afraid. These significant and unexpected changes in the friends’ lives make them wonder whether the Republic really has their best interests at heart.
During one of her tinkering sessions at grandad’s, Liz finds Charlie, her grandad’s old and snarky space drone. Liz is over the moon and rushes home to explore Charlie’s capabilities. She has the time of her life as she tests Charlie’s Teleport to Space function. What she didn’t expect was for Charlie to teleport right next to a Republic ship that quickly blares all alarms, ready to shoot Charlie down. They escape with just seconds to spare. But it’s too late. Charlie has been spotted and becomes Republic Enemy no. 1.
In the meantime, Abi’s dad mysteriously reappears at home after a secret rescue mission by Abi’s mom. But the happy family reunion doesn’t last long. Both Abi’s parents are arrested, and Abi, who is now homeless, is welcomed to move in with Liz and her mom. Liz shares in Abi’s sadness and anger, doing the one thing she does best: She starts using Charlie to attack the Republic’s ships. At night, she sits in her attic, controlling Charlie, flying through space thousands of kilometers away, with Charlie’s snarky comments to keep her company. And during the day, she shares her secret adventures with her friends, assuring them that she doesn’t need any help. Liz’s robotic skills make her great at being a secret, space drone-wielding superhero. She goes on adventures every night, and as she downs more Republic spaceships and salvages more parts, her army of space drones grows, and she becomes bolder.
With a trial date set for Abi’s parents, it’s time for her biggest and boldest move yet: attacking the Exspes Cluster Maximum Security Correctional Facility and free Abi’s parents. Her drones execute her plan perfectly. That is until Liz runs out of hands and eyes to control all of them. As Abi’s parents escape, Republic ships surround her drones and in horror, she watches as Charlie is shot down inside the Prison’s docking bay. Her other drones bring back as many parts as they can, but he is beyond repair. To make matters worse, the Republic is broadcasting Charlie’s death far and wide as a win over the Equalists.
In an attempt to cheer her up, Liz’s mom takes her to her grandad, but all they find is Republic Guards and an empty house. With the Republic capturing some of Charlie’s parts, Charlie had been traced back to their previous owner, her grandad, and he was arrested. Liz is inconsolable. As her friends come to comfort her, her sadness changes into determination and Liz lets her friend convince her to let them help defeat the Republic. Together they make bigger and better plans. With the President set to visit their planet on her propaganda tour of the Republic and attend that night’s gala dinner with all the local officials (including Officer Wickt), the girls know exactly when and where to strike. They infiltrate the President’s ship and are ready to destroy it when they find that Liz’s grandad is being held on the ship. Liz is ready to give up, but with her two best friends by her side, they hatch a new plan. Abi and Cass distract the Republic’s forces with an attack while Liz rescues her grandad. As the president flees the scene on a smaller ship, the girls surround it and abduct the President, leaving her behind on a desolate asteroid.
The girls don’t really know what to do next, so they let the adults swoop in to arrest the President. The Equalists instate a new government that is promising a more peaceful and thriving nation for all. As for the girls, they start back at school with a new teacher and her new slogan: “We learn better when we learn together”.
I write and draw kids comics from my studio in Ghent, Belgium, generally accompanied by my husband and our cat. In a previous life, I got my Master in Psychology, started a PhD, and even ended up co-authoring an award-winning academic article in a top journal in my field. Luckily, these days, my hours are filled with less statistics and more robots. I am active on most social media platforms using the username @myrjamvdv.