Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chronic Review: Zatanna # 1

Zatanna # 1
DC Comics

Script: Paul Dini
Pencils: Stephane Roux
22 pages for $2.99

I've been sharing my cautious optimism about this book for several months now. I've been in love with Zatanna since I first discovered her on Batman: The Animated Series. She was sexy and smart back then, too.

"What do you want with a leggy dame in nylons - or have I answered my own question?" That was Paul Dini who wrote that line waaaaaaaayyyy back in 1992, and here he is eighteen years later for her first ongoing series. I have reason to be excited.

The problem is that as much as I'd like to trust Paul Dini, comics don't have a stellar track record with "girl books". (See: all seventy-nine girly books Marvel has produced in the last six weeks) So there's cause for concern, too.

Well, you can set your fears aside and breathe easy, because Dini avoids all the obvious pitfalls and sets this title up for a very promising future. Promising for storytelling purposes, mind you. Regardless of how good this gets, I'd be shocked if it makes it more than twelve issues.

My concerns were alleviated by page three, when a captive Zatanna is revealed to be practicing her stage act. Whew! Dini recognizes where these things generally go, shows it to us, and then pulls the rug out. Right then I knew that Dini had studied the playbook of Fail, and knew how to avoid the traps.

So don't look for Zatanna to be a dirty slut, a victim, or a drama queen. She can still be hot, and it looks like we're going to see some flirting and such with detective Dale Colton, and that's fine. As long as it's clever, I'm good with that. It's still too early to tell how that's going to play out.

The other major obstacle in my mind is wrapping Zatanna up in Justice League, earth shattering type event nonsense. Too many comics try to sell plot and "impact", when they need to focus on simply being entertaining.

Again, Dini hits some very satisfying notes. No real mention of the JLA or the wider DCU at all, which is perfect. Instead we're getting some world-building with the mystic underground of San Francisco. We're introduced to Brother Night, a genuinely creepy cat who does some genuinely creepy stuff.

Zatanna dispatches with his initial assault fairly handily, but Brother Night is established as a worthy adversary. Rather than go toe-to-toe with Z in a messy rumble, Night simply teases a dark prophecy about Zatanna's future and sets about payback from behind the scenes.

The bottom line on this one is that I don't know enough about where this is going to call it a triumph, but I think we can scratch pathetic "girl book" off the list. We are in capable hands with Paul Dini, who appears to have all the right moves. He presents us with a capable, likable heroine. She's got a unique patch of ground to stomp around in, and some interesting adversaries to play off of.

If this book gets some time to breathe and develop without event interference, we might be looking at a little diamond in the rough here....

- Ryan

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