Batman: The Animated Series holds up as the greatest Batman adaptation yet, so when the cartoon’s top writer, Paul Dini, took over Detective Comics for a while, readers knew the series was in excellent hands.
One of Dini’s many contributions to the cartoon was introducing Zatanna into Batman’s backstory as an old girlfriend from when her father, Zatara, was teaching Bruce to be an escape artist. Dini pulls a similar trick on a smaller scale in #833 and 834, showing us a brief moment when Zatanna and Bruce met as children not long after the Waynes’ murder. They should’ve been friends, but life took them in vastly different directions until they both joined the Justice League…where a betrayal of trust pulled them even further apart.
But when a former employee of Zatanna’s dies during another magician’s show, Batman calls her in to help bring the killer to justice. And the story plays out in classic Batman manner, with detective work, a deathtrap, and a surprise reveal. Dini has a knack for both these characters, and their differences always make for an excellent pairing.
Maybe they’re not as close as they should’ve been, but their shared history and mutual desire to work past an old wound add depth to an excellent two-parter.
Writer: Paul Dini
Penciler: Don Kramer
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: Death and the City (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 12 and up