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What Happens in Vegas

August 28, 2010

After spending all that time dealing with Brother Night’s schemes, in Zatanna #4, our heroine goes to Las Vegas to relax.  Actually, she’s going there for work, and she bumps into another Royal Flush Gang there.  This one is based on the Rat Pack.  Still, it’s Zatanna, so she does manage to take them out with relative ease.  She even takes a bow for the fans after she wins.  Nearby, three strange old women play the slots, complaining about how most machines spit out paper and how their master, Mammon, wants Zatanna. She returns the money the Royal Flush Gang stole to the owner of the casino that hired her, Sonny Raymond.  His father, Benjamin Raymond, had headlined his first casino with Zatanna’s father, Zatara, so he considers her a family friend.  After indicating he’s done some research on her, he asks if she’s interested in dating.  She accepts at least a drink after the show.  Then, Sonny starts talking to the portrait of her father, which comes alive.  It’s Mammon speaking through the portrait, and if Sonny brings Mammon Zatanna, he’ll let him off the hook.  By the way, Sonny is actually Benjamin himself.  Zatnna practices an escape trick with her manager, and one of the members of her crew brings in her new bunny, who’s not eating normally.  They rehearse, and when Zatanna goes to her hotel room to relax after twelve hours, she finds it full of loud party-goers.  She angrily ejects all of them by turning three rude girls into doves, scaring everyone off.  Her cousin, Zachary Zatara, then comes out of another room.  Seems this was supposed to be a party for her, but Zatara’s special that way.  Zatanna turns the doves back into girls, and after chastising Zatara, she kicks him and his assistant, Bunny, out of her room.  And as Zatara and Bunny go to the elevator, they run into the three old ladies.  Who are actually fire demons sent by Mammon to test Zatanna.  Zatanna proves unable to stop them, and they shove fire in her mouth, burning her insides.

Well, this whole Mammon/Benjamin Raymond thing is pretty cool.  It’s elaborating further on the demon lords of Hell, which Paul Dini started to do in the previous arc.  Obviously Mammon will turn out to be a dangerous foe, but I hope Raymond is too, since Brother Night was such a disappointment.  Dini’s flirting a bit with danger here, as another version of Mammon is a major villain in the Spawn comic books, but it should be okay, as Mammon is a famous demon in the Bible.  To explain the rabbit thing, that rabbit is the son of Captain Carrot, a member of the Zoo Crew, animal heroes from another part of the DC Universe.  Zatanna took care of him for a while before he turned back to normal in Final Crisis.  Carrot transformed into his superpowered self when he ate a “cosmic carrot,” so that’s what’s up with the rabbit.  I also like the low-key revelation that two members of Zatanna’s crew are gay and in love.  There are more gay guys in show business, so it makes sense.  But Dini makes it seem perfectly normal, so it doesn’t pop out of the book.  That’s how it’s done.  I have two big complaints with this story.  One, Zatanna seems to be only using her backwards word magic.  I’m pretty sure that such a powerful magician would have other magic in her arsenal, so I’m disappointed there isn’t more variety.  My guess is it’s Dini’s attempt to make Zatanna not completely invincible, but that instead makes things ridiculous.  You wouldn’t think someone that powerful would be so easily put in dire straits by three fire demons.  My other problem is Dini’s portrayal of Zatara.  Zatara is a prick who thinks he’s the best thing to happen ever, not a party boy.  So that’s just off characterization.  And he was never romantically involved with Bunny, nor did he ever show any interest.  As for the art, Chad Hardin is a poor substitute for Stephane Roux.  He’s art’s pretty decent, but when you look at the gorgeous cover, you can’t help but miss Roux’s gorgeous pencils.  At the very least, Hardin can draw a gnarled old hand well.  So, this issue proves that this series has at least a bit more life to it.  It’s still not wowing me like I wanted, but it’s doing fine.

Plot: 7.8      Art: 8.3      Dialogue: 8.6      Overall: 8.0

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