DC seems to have the female-fronted superhero comic publishing game on lock: Zatanna, Batgirl, Power Girl, Birds of Prey and, of course, Wonder Woman. Okay, that’s only five books, but for comparison’s sake, Marvel has one comic book with a female superhero in the title (Spider-Girl. DC even has a female-centered team book! So, kudos on that front, DC.
(Never mind that four out of the five are written by dudes. That’s an industry-wide problem.)
I enjoy Zatanna, and not because of the no-pants thing. Or the top hat, for that matter, even though it certainly helps. Grant Morrison, in his Seven Soldiers of Victory project, did a lot of work to rehabilitate her from the morally dubious martyr of the incompetent, asshole-ish Justice League of Identity Crisis to a down-on-her-luck fuckup -- by all means an improvement.
This issue finds Zatanna helping out a ventriloquist named Stringleshanks (he adopted the name of his puppet), whom Zatanna’s father (the confusingly named Zatara) turned into a dummy for reasons we find out in this issue. This is actually part three of a multi-issue story, but it doesn’t posit itself as such -- probably because it’s so easy to get into. All you need to know comes across on the first page: Zatanna’s hanging out with a talking puppet.
I fear we take Paul Dini for granted. Maybe it’s because he’s writing under-the-radar type books (and let’s be thankful for that, because those need the most help), but I fear we as a society don’t appreciate him outside of the wonderful work he did with the rest of the Batman: The Animated Series gang. The guy’s got a weird passion for Zatanna (“He’s secretly in love with her,” Alan Burnett once said), which is great because I like reading about Zatanna. I would not be reading about her, however, if Dini weren’t the sort of writer who crafts witty, accessible scripts with equal amounts of magicky stuff and scary stuff.
The best idea Cliff Chiang comics ever had were that they were drawn by Cliff Chiang, and Zatanna is no exception. His style is clean, but it has a lot of personality to it and a flair for well-executed facial expressions and believable human anatomy. Old people look old! Girls look like girls and not some boy’s comic book-extracted fantasy of girls! Most impressive is his consistent rendition of Stringleshanks’ constantly grinning face, which, save for the eyes, never moves. Instead of making an expressive puppet, Chiang relies on catching dummy at different angles to get different emotions out of him.
Zatanna #10 ends on what’s ostensibly a cliffhanger, but one marked by an equivocal “The end...?” Which is actually quite funny -- it’s as if Paul Dini wanted to give any haters an out of his book. I can’t imagine any haters existing ( I love the idea of someone just dropping the book at a fairly dark point in the story to conclude the series at a Twilight Zone-ish twist ending. I, for one, will be sticking around to see where this goes.
What did you think of this book?
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