By: Derek Fridolfs (writer), Jamal Igle (penciller), John Dell (inker), John Kalisz (colorist)

The Story: I saw Zatanna Zatara speaking with the devil!  She’s a witch!  Someone get a swan!

The Review: Those Subway “features” in half of DC’s comics sure are annoying, aren’t they?  I know nothing about their quality; I haven’t even bothered to read them.  But by chance my eye caught the credit list on one of them and I saw the name “Derek Fridolfs” pop out, which I recognized as the same name that wrote this issue of Zatanna.  Call me a pessimist, but I’m just not sure I can place confidence in a writer who can put to paper, “Looks like we aren’t the only ones with a craving for Subway® sandwiches today.”

As it turns out, Fridolfs is pretty capable for someone who writes Jared Fogle (Subway Guy) into a comic—without irony.  He gives us an effective opener which puts Zee immediately in mortal danger, but which also demonstrates the formulaic quality of her character.  Because the nature of her mnemonic incantations has never been seriously explored, her voice always has to get cut off in some way to threaten her, a hump it seems no writer has figured out how to get over yet.

Still, Fridolfs’ strategy sure beats the bondage undertones we usually get, and even after that brutal first attack, he never lets her catch a break, keeping her constantly on the run from her pursuers, always on the edge of disaster.  Once you take away her magic chops, she essentially becomes—and I’m using Wiki terms here—a woman with the fitness of a person who engages in moderate exercise, with knowledge in advanced hand-to-hand combat and sleight of hand.

All good opportunity to show Zatanna is League material not because she’s their convenient resident magician, but because she has guts, plain and simple.  In an earlier issue we learn she had taken karate lessons, which proves very effective indeed (though I imagine her association with Batman and Wonder Woman helped some, especially in the effective use of a chain and sword as projectiles).  Her finest moment has to be grabbing a curtain rope for a swashbuckling lift into the risers, where she scatters the doves from the footlights.

But you can’t expect perfection from someone who manages to mention Subway several times a page, and we have a few blatant flaws in the issue.  Why those female fans didn’t see Zee bleeding from the throat (the rest of us sure did!) still baffles me, making her flash-disappearing act in front of them fairly unnecessary.  And sure, we all accept wildly implausible coincidences in comics now and then, but completely obliterating a bathroom with machine gun fire—except Zatanna, crouched on the floor directly in front of the shooters?  That’s quite a stretch.

I suppose this also means we’ll have no continuation of the Spectre storyline taglined for almost every issue since #13.  But then, neither did we have Paul Dini writing on any issue since then, contrary to what’s stated on DC’s website.  I have no idea who dropped the ball and what happened to make things go off the rails this much, but it is rather inexcusable—possibly why DC has offered no excuse or acknowledgement of the changes.

Igle contributes good work, but does nothing to counter the illogical details of Fridolfs’ script. In one scene, two hood-and-robed thugs fire machine guns at Zee from point-blank, yet somehow hit only the floor.  You would expect an artist to voice some objections about drawing something that nonsensical, but as the contents of this issue is no doubt a last-minute job, perhaps the effort wasn’t worth it.

Conclusion: A fine, enjoyable filler issue, but one that shouldn’t have been a filler.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – How can Zatanna commit such a twisted retribution and still seem so cute?  It’s the sparkles, I tell ya.