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Not All Tricks and Illusions

June 20, 2010

After talking about it for about four years, Paul Dini has finally gotten to give his favorite character, Zatanna, her own series.  And the first issue of that series, Zatanna #1, starts with Zatanna seemingly captured by the Joker and Dr. Light with a drill about to go right through her.  But she escapes and entangles them with ropes, and that’s when we see that it’s just a performance.  After she gives orders to her crew for the next show, she’s approached by Detective Dale Colton, who wants some help with a case.  He takes her to a crime scene, which is covered in all sorts of crap, from tree roots to giant frogs to… innards.  One of the dead is a crime lord, and as the two investigate, she finds a single survivor.  She reaches into his memories to see what happened, and she sees the arrival of Brother Night, the king of the mystic underworld of San Francisco.  And he brought three other baddies, Romalthi the Shaper, Ember, and Teddy, with him.  They slaughtered all the people there and transformed them to make the point that he was going to run the human part of San Francisco as well.  She transforms all of the humans back to normal to show that humans were the victims, and Brother Night feels it as it happens.  She changes into her work clothes and visits Brother Night, quickly taking out Ember, an old enemy of hers, Nimue Ravensong, and Teddy.  Brother Night tries to get her to embrace the evil side of magic and get rid of all her human friends, but Zatanna doesn’t buy it, and when Romalthi tries to change her shape, she switches places with Nimue.  She warns Night not to mess with the human realm again before leaving with a literal bang of the green variety.  After she heads back home and updates Detective Colton by phone, Brother Night goes to sleep and meets with some kind of nightmare demon, Fuseli.  Although Fuseli is less than happy to see him, Brother Night offers Fuseli a chance to work together to strike at their mutual foe, Zatanna.

Well, Paul Dini definitely knows how to introduce a character.  This issue is definitely villain and case heavy, rather than attempting to give Zatanna much of a supporting cast.  Dale Colton will likely come back, and those people working on her set are probably going to be supporting cast members.  But this was just a brief glimpse.  Instead, we get five new villains and the return of Nimue, who has already been turned into a slug.  Poor Nimue.  Zatanna was spectacularly charming as a character, and her skill and experience oozes through every action she takes.  Brother Night’s knowledge of her past and his opposing dark charisma are equally enticing.  I will be happy to see him get refined as more than a menacing villain with a scary face, but this issue was all about introducing him to us.  Fuseli also seems cool, especially since his nightmares shtick seems to be a reference to Henry Fuseli and his painting, the Nightmare.  Good cultural research there, Dini.  And as a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan, I was thrilled to see Morn at the bar.  I’m sure that brought on a collective fan squeal from many readers.  Stephane Roux is a perfect artist for tihs book, as he gets down all the creepiness of the various demons and Brother Night while making Zatanna as attractive as she’s supposed to be.  Roux’s specialty seems to be breasts, as he focuses quite a lot on making Zatanna’s breasts very… out there.  Lots of artists do that, and I’m not that big a fan.  But his otherwise extremely classy drawings of Zatanna make up for that shortcoming.  Mostly.  So although this wasn’t an earthshaking, character-reinventing first issue, it was extremely solid.  I’m sold on this book for the short run, and the next few issues will tell if I’m going to stay.  But considering Dini’s love of the character and how much it shines through in this issue, I bet that I’m not going anywhere.

Plot: 8.3      Art: 9.0      Dialogue: 8.7      Overall: 8.4

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