Story: Paul Dini
Pencils: Stephane Roux
Inks: Karl Story
Colours: John Kalisz
Appealing to the hot-magician-in-fishnets fetishist in us all, Zatanna is a fan favourite who has long deserved a regular series. But she’s also the sort of property that demands a capable writer; for every Neil Gaiman who’s portrayed Zatanna at her finest there are a dozen others who fail to understand exactly what distinguishes the affable conjurer from other scantily-clad DC heroines.
Lucky for us, then, that self-confessed Zatanna devotee Paul Dini is helming this new series. Dini included the illusionist in a recent Detective Comics arc, which was enjoyable enough but failed to fully test her magical abilities. Here he makes no such mistake, and when Zatanna is asked to help solve a horrifically bizarre murder it leads her to a worthy adversary in Brother Blood and his trio of mystical psychopaths.
If I’ve one small issue with Dini’s writing here, it’s that Zatanna is so overpowered – the limits of her abilities have never been clearly defined – that she can effortlessly yap her way out of any situation by simply speaking a command backwards. It’s a trap many writers fall into, and is not exclusive to Zatanna; stories featuring Dr Strange, The Spectre and various other spellcasters always seem to lack sufficient peril.
Birds of Prey cover artist Stephane Roux is a fine choice for this book, and he finds the right balance in sexualising his top-hatted conjurer; part of Zatanna’s appeal is that, physically at least, she’s more plausible than Power Girl, Wonder Woman et al. A gruesome crime scene and a battle in the demonic San Francisco underworld also provide Roux’s pencils ample opportunity to shine.
This was simply a fun issue that, unlike the Seven Soldiers: Zatanna miniseries, would be a great stepping-on point for those unfamiliar with the character. Dini’s affection for Zatanna Zatara is apparent, and he’s definitely set up a promising new series. This issue acts as a great introduction to the character and her abilities, and hopefully the introduction of Fuseli, an impish demon based on Henry Fuseli’s painting ‘The Nightmare,’ will raise the threat level next month.