Today’s Super Comic — Zatanna: Everyday Magic (2003)

Zatanna gets the Vertigo treatment in this prestige format one-shot. The adult language and brief nudity neither add to nor detract from the story, but magic does tend to feel at home in the Vertigo imprint.

Everyday Magic isn’t the definitive Zatanna story, but it’s a solid, well-told one by the guy who writes the character best, Paul Dini. Between tours, Zatanna finds John Constantine in her home, and he’s nursing a curse as well as a hangover. So she has to save his, and others’, day by confronting the witch who did this to him. While Zatanna is saving his life, Constantine bonds with her new romantic fling, much to her dismay.

It’s a quick, light read, but it’s fun and shows how wonderfully she works as a lead character. She’s always at the edge of this very dark, magical world, but she remains sunny in the face of it. And she keeps trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life, no matter how futile that is. Every page, she exudes charisma.

Constantine may have been the one who got his own TV show, but here, Zatanna is his hero.

Also, an imaginary talking rabbit narrates Zatanna’s backstory. I would include that in the “plus” column.

Writer: Paul Dini

Artist: Rick Mays

Cover: Brian Bolland

Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY

Today’s Super Comic — Zatanna #8 (2011)

Let me again lament how short-lived Paul Dini’s Zatanna series was. But better than nothing, I suppose.

Issue #8 kicks off a new storyline that forces Zatanna to confront her childhood fear of puppets, which apparently stems from a time her father, Zatara, made a serious error in judgment and went too far in stopping a bad guy. And now that old mistake is back to haunt his daughter.

Not only does it set up a good conflict that’s both internal and external, but it also fills in details about her life, past and present—something the character had been in need of for many years. (An amusing little flashback in this issue involves a Sesame Street guest appearance gone awry.) Here, she’s portrayed as a person first, magician second.

It’s always nice to see Zatanna get to be her own character rather than just the Justice League’s resident sorceress.

Writer: Paul Dini

Artist: Cliff Chiang

Cover: Stephane Roux

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Zatanna vol. 2: Shades of the Past (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Detective Comics #843-844 (2008)

Detective Comics 843Since I reviewed Paul Dini’s first Batman/Zatanna Detective Comics two-parter the other day, let’s check in on the other one, from #834 and 844.

While I’m partial to the first story, this follow-up is also strong and features a great villain, the new Ventriloquist, who happens to be someone Bruce Wayne knew a while back. The story also explores the friendship between Batman and Zatanna and what other potential might exist, but of course we know they’re not going to embark on any real romantic relationship…because he’s Batman.

A magical girlfriend would certainly change the entire dynamic of Batman’s dark, brooding, and hardly supernatural world. But Zatanna does make a terrific guest star, lightening up the proceedings and humanizing the protagonist a bit more.

Dini should just write something like a six-part Batman/Zatanna miniseries. I have no doubt it would turn out great.

Writer: Paul Dini

Penciler: Dustin Nguyen

Inker: Derek Fridolfs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batman: Private Casebook (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Detective Comics #833-834 (2007)

Detective_Comics_833Batman: 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

Today’s Super Comic — Zatanna #1 (2010)

Zatanna 1Zatanna is a fantastic character, and so far, no writer has demonstrated a better handle on what makes her great than Paul Dini.

It’s a shame that Dini’s ongoing Zatanna series didn’t last long, but what exists remains an enjoyable read. In this first issue, he not only begins establishing a supporting cast for her, but he also contrasts her against the dark, disturbing world of magic. She’s the lighthearted professional stage magician giving magic a friendly face, but she also serves as a formidable protector against supernatural threats. She takes her work seriously, but she’s not overly serious as she completes that work.

That’s exactly the right approach. Dark and brooding does not suit Zatanna. She’s the ray of light in the darkness, not the darkness itself.

Given her occupation as an entertainer, Zatanna should be one of the most charismatic and fun superheroes around. Whenever Dini writes her, she often is.

Writer: Paul Dini

Artist: Stephane Roux

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Zatanna: Mistress of Magic (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up