“A Book in the Beginning”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Ryan Sook (p), Mick Gray (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Zatanna, with unlikely young “sidekick” Misty, flees to a magic shop run by Cassandra Craft. Which is good, as all three are fairly crafty gals, and Zatanna is not so much fleeing as setting a trap.
Comments: Two great things up front about this series, one a feature of the overall concept Grant has planned so well, another particular to this important but oft ill-used character.
Seven Soldiers, the mosaic of interlocking stories, is working wonderfully, as events in one book refer to and relate to events in another, from serious plot points to clever in-jokes. But these are the good kind of in-jokes, Easter eggs that you get if you read the other stories and can ignore happily if you haven’t. So far, he’s staying true to his promise of many stories fitting into one overall tale, not like missing puzzle pieces, but like facets of the same gemstone.
Regarding Zatanna, boy can she be a hard one to write. Is she a showgirl, glorified misdirection in fishnets distracting us from the magician’s tricks? Is she DC’s answer to Scarlet Witch, as seduced by the eldritch forces she traffics with as she is herself seductive? Is she a confident charlatan, a happy flirt, a disaffected outsider, a loyal daughter or a potent warrior? Grant somehow manages to let her be most of these at once (though the
daughter is now almost motherly herself). Turns out last month’s careless self-help addict has a plan after all, as this issue she’s well aware of her pursuit and has thought of an ingenuous way to turn the tables on her foe despite her still missing mojo.
Most interesting: Cassandra Craft is an intriguing figure, one of those blind seers that made such compelling spooky hippie chicks in sixties occult films. Grant manages to update her to somewhere between maiden and crone, while using her as a wry Greek chorus to Zatanna’s ramshackle antics. It is she who lets us know that Zatanna “was combat-trained by the JLA,” after Zee declares the shop her “gladiatorial arena.”
Made visible: Sook proves himself a wonderful match to Grant’s deceptively simple ideas, recalling J.H. Williams' fanciful yet naturalistic work. His Cassandra, in head to toe black, is all ruminating and folky Joni Mitchell to Zee’s disarrayed (but darkly potent) Grace Slick rock goddess. Props (from possessed cats to glowing moon medallions to oversize top hats) – all-too important to setting the tone in an eerie magic shop – are as much his forte as
people. There’s never a moment of confusion, despite Morrison’s syncopated language and the shape-changing antics of the demon Zatanna has called to herself, comically (or is that karmically) while searching for an ideal mate.
Less interesting: “Apprentice” Misty is the typical Morrisonian disaffected teen, thus far being more clever than annoying, but only just. However, I suspect she’s up to something.
Still interesting: The third great thing about Seven Soldiers, by the way, is that each issue is also a self-contained story. Last issue an out of sorts Zee tried to figure out her dilemma, only making it worse. This issue she solves part of it, in a way that feels final but leaves the door open for whatever comes next. This is an ideally conceived, if not yet epic, comic book.
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