Archive for Zatanna

Super Smash Sisters

Supergirl #58

Cat Grant suspects there’s a connection between Supergirl and Lana Lang, so she blackmails them into having Supergirl accompany her to visit Winslow Schott, the Toyman, in Arkham Asylum. They suspect him of kidnapping children in Metropolis and sending robot dolls to Cat. But when one of the dolls reactivates and tries to kill Schott, they have to re-evaluate their suspicions about his involvement. Cat’s vehement dislike for Supergirl drives Kara back to Metropolis, where she carries out her own investigation by beating up on bad guys. Cat, meanwhile, runs into some more murderous dolls — this time definitely free of Winslow’s influence.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Could I just say how much more I’m enjoying this non-pop-tart version of Supergirl? So much more personable and non-dorky and interesting than the one from just a few years ago. If they can get her into a new costume that doesn’t involve a belly shirt, the transformation into an awesome character will be complete…

Zatanna #7

Zatanna is visiting Hollywood to pay a visit to a woman who’s putting together a museum of magic, featuring costumes and artifacts from dozens of different DC spellcasters, including Dr. Fate, Ibis the Invincible, Baron Winter, Manitou Raven, Sargon the Sorcerer, and even Zatanna’s father, John Zatara. Unfortunately, all those costume pieces contain tiny fragments of the psyches and magical powers of all their previous owners, and Sargon’s turban is able to take command of the other articles of clothing in the museum, taking them on a magical rampage through Los Angeles. Can Zatanna figure out a way to shut down the spectral sartorial sorcerer?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice done-in-one story with a good emotional core at the center of everything. I love the way so many of these Zatanna stories revolve around either stage magic or Zee’s relationship to her father. You’d think it’d get tiring, but it’s still working pretty well.

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A Farewell to Cap

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #21

This kid-friendly series — the last comic featuring the classic Marvel Family — has finally come to its end. Black Adam is now more powerful than ever, and he’s not having much difficulty mopping up on the Marvels. Can Captain Marvel figure out how to stop him? Will it require a final sacrifice by one of the Marvel Family members? And what’s going to happen when the entire Justice League comes calling?

Verdict: Thumbs up. At its best — and the last few issues of this have been among its best — this has always been a pretty fun, though often wordy, series. It’s too bad that another all-ages comic is going away, and it’s also too bad that we can’t see the classic Marvel Family anywhere in any current comics now…

Zatanna #6

Zachary Zatara is peeved at his cousin, Zatanna, because she’s ditched his show again. When he learns that she’s vanished, he tracks her to a secret chapel owned by casino kingpin Sonny Raymond — she’s been bewitched and is about to marry him, giving him another soul to sacrifice to Mammon in exchange for more years of unnatural life. Is there a way to extract Zatanna from this mockery of a wedding? And what punishments are going to visited upon Sonny Raymond and Mammon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the greatest story around, but not bad, and it’s nice to see Zach Zatara getting to do something in a comic…

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #2

Billy’s been tossed in the hoosegow in London, believed to be Jack the Ripper himself. He gets broken out of the joint by a British freak, but Sproule and Isadora, unaware of where he is, go out to find him. They run into H.H. Holmes, who sends Sproule off on a wild goose chase while he leads Isadora off — but another freak soon shows up to rescue Isadora. Who’s really behind the murders in Whitechapel? And in the backup story, the Goon tangles with a giant fish monster and the Mighty Fog Hat. And someone’s stolen Franky’s weiners!

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love any comic that includes the spectacularly rotten H.H. Holmes. And the Goon backup is supremely silly. Good stuff all around.

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Spider-Dude and Wolverine-Dude and Magic-Dudette

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #3

Doom the Living Planet is about to attack Future Earth, and Spider-Man has a gun that fires the Phoenix Force itself. It can destroy an entire planet — like Planet Doom, fer instance — but at the cost of killing whoever fires the weapon. And Wolverine has knocked Spidey out so he can make the grand sacrifice himself. Spidey tries to stop him, but is too late — Doom is destroyed, and Wolverine reduced to a puddle of glop. Spidey returns to his lab, trying to get the Cosmic Cube to work, and after a long, long time, he gets it to activate, just in time to yank Logan out of a blissful afterlife reunited with his mother. Wolvie is not happy about this at all, and of course, it leads to a great battle — or it would, if both of them weren’t suddenly frozen in time, then shot into wildly different worlds.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of really great stuff in this, starting off with Wolverine’s long walk out to confront Doom, confronting the fact that his healing factor won’t get him out of this one. There’s also Petey’s desperate race to try to catch Wolverine, his obsession with perfecting the Cosmic Cube, Logan’s afterlife, and the beginning of their next fight. Really, the story is awesome from first page to last.

Zatanna #5

Zee is in big trouble as a trio of fire demons have got her on the ropes. She’s able to beat them with a swimming pool of improvised holy water. But she’s not even aware of the real problem — the demon Mammon is plotting against her in Hell, and his servant on Earth is Benjy Raymond, the owner of the casino where Zatanna is performing. Mammon gives Benjy a dozen enchanted roses that mesmerize Zee after a show — and if he can hypnotize her into marrying him before midnight, Mammon will get to claim her soul. Will Zatanna manage to wake up from the spell in time? Or will Benjy and his Vegas zombies win the double-or-nothing bet?

Verdict: Ehh. Completely in the middle on this one. The story didn’t thrill the socks off me, and neither was it a total loss. It was… sufficient, and nothing more.

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Buzzard’s Blues

Buzzard #3

The Buzzard is on a quest to find something that is mutating humans into deadly monsters. He’s leading a boy, who was assigned to be his guide because the village he lived in thought he was worthless, and a dancing girl, who the Buzzard rescued from a cult. Buzzard tells the kid why he never smiles — he’s an immortal, he’s seen just about everything, and he never feels awe for anything he sees anymore. The woman flees or is dragged away one night, but Buzzard and the boy eventually find their way to the temple where the giant monster who’s responsible for all of this lives. After telling the boy to hide himself, Buzzard goes into the temple to challenge the beast. But the monster is also immortal and, like Buzzard, tired of living. Will either of them make it out alive, or will both find the death they’ve been looking for?

In the backup story about Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities, Billy and his freak-show cohorts rescue Jeffrey, but are pursued by the witch and her monstrous baby. They make their escape and learn the tragic history behind both of the monsters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Buzzard’s story is unexpectedly sad and sweet. Strong characterization and dialogue, plus Eric Powell’s always-cool artwork. The backup story was fun, too — and even better, it’s going to be getting its own series soon.

Zatanna #4

While running some shows out of Las Vegas, Zatanna takes out the local version of the Royal Flush Gang — this batch isn’t themed on playing cards but on the Rat Pack. Later, she meets up with a mysterious casino owner, runs into her cousin, Zachary Zatara, who has invited a bunch of people up to her room to party and trash the place, and has a less-than-successful outing against some fire demons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The rest of the story is fine, but I really enjoyed the Rat Pack-impersonating Royal Flush Gang who take up the first few pages of the story. They’re a surprisingly fun twist, and a natural for Sin City.

The Unwritten #16

Tom Taylor has finally met up with his supposedly-dead father, fantasy novelist Wilson Taylor, while super-assassin Pullman and the great literary conspiracy tries to hunt them all down. Lizzie Hexam, meanwhile, exploring the old Victorian novel where she was apparently born, discovers that you really can’t go home again. Wilson explains a few mysteries to Tom and gives Savoy a story for his paper, but it’s not long before Pullman tracks them down. Will any of them escape alive? And what’s to become of Wilson Taylor’s literary legacy when the awful (and fake) new Tommy Taylor novel is released?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, good dialogue and characterization, some mysteries revealed and a few more kicked up in their place. It’s a nice way to end this storyarc — looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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Magic Times

Zatanna #3

The evil and ghoulishly smiling Brother Night still has it in for Zatanna, attacking her with a bunch of mannequins backstage at her theater. She traces him and his allies back to Mt. Diablo, where Night sacrificed a bunch of children decades ago in exchange for hellish powers. Zatanna deals with Night’s minions easily, but he has a trick up his sleeve — he’s enslaved the soul of Zatanna’s father, Zatara! Can Zatanna save her father and defeat Brother Night? Or will their combined powers be too much for her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice close to Zatanna’s first short storyarc. Brother Night really does make an excellent villain — the rictus grin is so wonderfully creepy. If I’ve got anything to complain about, it’s that there’s not been a lot of development of Zatanna’s supporting cast — but just three issues in, I’m not sure we’d be able to see much beyond cursory characterization.

The New Avengers #2

The New Avengers have been attacked by Dr. Strange and Daimon Hellstrom, both possessed by demonic forces. While Dr. Voodoo sent the mystic Eye of Agamotto to Luke Cage for safekeeping, Luke has now been possessed by some other entity that’s caused him to grow into a giant and join the attack. What follows is a lot of fighting, yelling, running around, and flinging the Eye of Agamotto back and forth. Wolverine stabs Dr. Strange and Hellstrom right before they get unpossessed. Spidey gets put in charge of Cage’s baby. Will the Avengers be able to keep the Eye out of the bad guys’ hands?

Verdict: I think I’m gonna give it a thumbs down. A lot of the character interaction is pretty nice, but it just doesn’t fit in well with the furious confusion of the action. Like I said yesterday, this is an ongoing problem with Brian Michael Bendis‘ writing, and to me, it indicates that Marvel should do what they can to stop treating him like the be-all-and-end-all of comics writers. Find what he does well and let him work on that, but don’t stick him on so many books, ’cause it makes the comics suffer.

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Under the Sea

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1

A new story about one of Abe’s earlier missions, with writing by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, and art by Peter Snejbjerg. Long decades after a large number of sailors drowned in a sunken Soviet submarine, Abe is assigned to swim down and recover something called Melchiorre’s Burgonet, a medieval helmet with reputed magical powers. Once Abe gets to the sub, he doesn’t find the expected zombies, just a lot of long-dead waterlogged corpses floating eerily in the darkness. He recovers the helmet, returns to the ship awaiting him, argues with the captain when he wants to salvage the sub, and then finds an unexpected visitor.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a wonderfully atmospheric story (and a great cover, too), from the Russian sailor awaiting the water, darkness, and cold that will end him to the dreamlike scenes of drowned bodies floating through the water around and inside the sub. It’s beautifully tense horror, and you should definitely go pick this one up.

Justice Society of America #40

This ends up being a bit of an anticlimactic ending to the time travel storyarc — the message that Future Mr. Terrific sent to Present Mr. Terrific actually arrives back around Issue #32 of this series, back when Mr. Terrific died (briefly) on the operating table. This time, he revives, blurts out a message to “Hatch the egg,” and passes out again. Green Lantern, assuming he may be hearing Michael’s last request, goes out, finds the “egg,” and releases his son Obsidian from captivity. He helps to rout the crop of villains attacking the JSA, then participates in the rest of the Justice Society’s various adventures since then, and Mr. Terrific retains his memories of the future, helping the team get the drop on the Nazi supervillains and eventually offering a scholarship to the girl who would, in the alternate future, have turned out to be his interrogator.

Verdict: I’ll give it a thumbs up. It’s one of the weirder retcons I’ve seen, but it all seems to work out well. And it gets Obsidian back as an active superhero again, so I’ll proclaim that a good thing, too.

Zatanna #2

After helping Black Canary and Vixen take out a pack of were-hyenas in New Orleans, Zatanna returns home to San Francisco for some well-deserved shut-eye, but she soon falls prey to a nightmare-causing demon with the unlikely name of Fuseli, who has been empowered by the evil Brother Night to try to keep her in dreamland forever. And Brother Night is putting the squeeze on Detective Colton, too — he plans on taking over all magical and mundane crime in S.F., and he warns Colton that he better get on his good side. Can he help Zatanna escape from her dreaming prison? And who is Brother Night’s secret ace-in-the-hole?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very nice stuff, fun depiction of a good nightmare villain, some excellent work on cranking up the menace of Brother Night, who really is just creepy as heck, and the surprise guest appearance on the final page really makes for a good cliffhanger.

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Blood Types

American Vampire #3

In 1925 Los Angeles, recently-minted vampire Pearl Jones visits her old roommate Hattie, warns her that she’s likely in danger, and tells her to move somewhere safe. The European vampires hiding out in Hollywood send a few vamps out to investigate Pearl’s old apartment, but Pearl ambushes ’em on the way and effortlessly takes ’em all down. But she also falls prey to one of her breed’s few weaknesses — she has to sleep on nights of the new moon, and that gives the Euro-vamps an edge over her. Meanwhile, in our prequel from 1909 Colorado, Skinner Sweet revives from his decades underwater and gets hit with a dose of future-shock — he doesn’t know what a movie is, what a telephone is, he complains constantly that the nearest town elected a Hispanic man as the mayor. And he wipes out most of the town and wires a telegram to the lawmen who captured and killed him, taunting them into returning to face him again.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really, really enjoying Pearl’s story. She makes a very appealing protagonist, and it’s fun watching her discover what she can do. Skinner Sweet is also a lot of fun, but I got pretty irritated about all the anti-Hispanic slurs he kept dropping. Yeah, yeah, it’s probably historically accurate — or at least as accurate as a story with vampires in the Wild West is ever going to get — but it does run afoul of one of writer Stephen King’s weaknesses — the guy just doesn’t do subtlety. It woulda been easy to communicate racism in the West in a line or two — no need to keep going back to that well over and over and over. This is probably a case where an editor should’ve tweaked things down a bit. Still, on the whole, I enjoyed the story, and I’m still recommending it highly, especially for all the fun in Pearl’s story.

Zatanna #1

Zatanna’s first-ever ongoing series starts off with a visit from a San Francisco police detective after one of Zee’s magic shows. He asks her to help investigate a murder scene — numerous mobsters gruesomely killed by magic. After she hypnotizes the lone witness to the crime, she’s able to see what he saw — a meeting of San Francisco’s organized crime leaders was invaded by a bunch of sorcerous gangsters looking to expand their business into the mundane world. The bad guys all seem to be new characters — the constantly grinning Brother Night, Romalthi, who can make people change shape, Ember, a dragon in human form, and Teddy, a very bad little boy. Zatanna makes her way to Brother Night’s mystical nightclub and confronts the baddies — she handles the henchmen pretty easily and warns Night to stay away from San Francisco. But Night has some more powerful allies he’s willing to bring forth…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Probably a good thing this is being written by Paul Dini, as he seems to be the biggest Zatanna fanboy in the universe — I mean, the guy went and married a magician who’s a dead ringer for Zatanna. We get a decent amount of magical mayhem and some very nasty new magical villains. And the artwork by Stephanie Roux and Karl Story is entirely excellent as well — equal parts cheesecake and horror, which is a pretty good mix for this type of comic. Superhero comics about magic-based characters seem to have an uphill climb (Anyone remember the fast fade “Shadowpact” pulled?), but I hope they can keep this title running for a while…

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