By: Adam Beechen (writer), Victor Ibáñez (artist), Ego (colorist)
The Story: What’s a girl got to do to get some freakin’ sleep around here?
The Review: I notice there’s been a recent uptick in the number of reviews where I discuss common story formulas and plot devices, which seem to be on the swell in DC lately. It makes a fair bit of sense. With most of the creative energies flowing into the upcoming relaunch (ten days and counting!), and the majority of titles spending their remaining issues on fill-in one-shots, you can’t exactly expect boat-rocking narratives or ideas.
Here we have another old plot structure: a character wants something, and things get in her way. In Zatanna’s case, all she wants is something most of us working/studying stiffs can identify with: some good ol’ shut-eye—whatever that is. In a way, the premise highlights a fairly significant logistical question in the world of comics: when do heroes sleep? They work all day in their secret identities, and most of them operate as vigilantes at night. That’s no way to live.
But Zee, like many of us, makes a determined attempted to have it all, even in spite of the antics from a certain teal-skinned lad from Limbo Town. Of course I mean Uriah, smooth-talking peer to the more famous Limbonite, Klarion the Witch Boy. Aside the absence of a feline familiar, Uriah serves as a pretty close analogue to Klarion: both are young, unnaturally eloquent lads of bratty disposition, who use their formidable magic to get what they want any way they can.
Uriah’s powers also prevents Zee from putting how down too easily as he worms his way into Shadowcrest under false pretenses, then proceeds to punk “one of the seven or eight most important magical items in any universe” from her tremendous library. Thus ensues a chase across weird worlds, strange lands, and parallel dimensions, offering us a mere glimpse of the extraordinary life Zatanna must live on a daily basis.
It also gives an all-too-brief glimpse into the kind of title this should have been from day one: showing us the fantastical, whimsical, unimaginable corners of the DCU, which only Zee’s charming brand of magic can access. It’s frustrating to think, after having her own ongoing for over a year and a half, she’s accomplished hardly a single thing of note or worth, with no major story arc to her name, no substantial developments to her character or powers, nothing. This issue hints at the enormous potential for story Zatanna holds, one that will now remain untapped for who knows how long.
Artists don’t really have the power to make up for an absolutely dismal script (not to imply this one is—far from it), but if any artist can do it, take my vote for Ibáñez, whose praises I sung when he did a one-shot on The Spirit #14. Much as I’d love to see him on an ongoing, I suspect the grind of working on a series would prevent him from delivering the ungodly amount of detail that makes his art such a joy to look at and relook at: the bags of peanuts and cartons of juice spilling from a stewardess’ cart during a plane crash, the Victorian embroidery on Zatanna’s corset, a roomful of caged, unidentifiable creepy-crawlies—it just goes on and on. All this, and we haven’t even touched on his dynamic use of POV, the depth of his lines, and the energy of his movement. This is comic book art worth treasuring for future generations to appreciate.
Conclusion: Fun and delightfully imaginative, supported by quite possibly some of the best art in the land, it’s a generous send-off for a title that never got on its feet.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – So stoked to see traces of the Fourth World (or Fifth, you never know) when Zee and Uriah run through an Apokalyptian landscape.
– Zee, you’re a millionaire a few times over. Can’t you afford better than one mummy to guard your archive of magical tomes? I know it’s a rough economy, but come on.