Until she was given this series, Zatanna’s never really had a chance to shine. She, like many magic-powered characters, seems to repel opportunity for stardom. Either writers don’t know what to do, they hold back, or they unleash the character too much and too early. Dini has no such problems here. He’s found a balance between Zatanna’s “other life,” that is her chosen profession as a performer, and her role as one of the Earth’s most powerful magical champions. Since the series’ start, Dini has chosen to have Zatanna square off with supernatural threats as the bulk of the issues. The threat in this issue is a casino owner with a debt to a demon. That demon intends to collect and the owner has called Zatanna in for defense. Sure, it’s a story that we’ve read before, but Dini adds a twist to it to freshen it up and deepen the magical influence.
Regarding the art, Chad Hardin is no Stephane Roux. Hardin’s work is good and consistent, but parts of this issue (and the previous one) feel more like Hardin’s trying to replicate Roux’s work as opposed to just blazing his own trail. Hardin fills this story with detail and dynamic figure work, but could use a little more punch, whether that punch comes from his inker, the colorist, or Hardin, himself. Kalisz’s colors have always gravitated towards a muted, earthtone based palette, as they do here, and the end result is a muted tale that could benefit greatly from some brighter tones.
Hardin is faced with a challenge in that he has to render Zatanna falling after being swatted by a poisoned rose. It’s an odd sequence, and one that Hardin delivers with tact, but it looks weak, following roundhouse kicks and demon attacks in this issue.
The demon mastermind, Mammon, is not the most threatening demon, especially since his quest is for the soul of a character that we’ve only just met. Sonny Raymond doesn’t command much sympathy, and his treatment of Zatanna does nothing to change that. All the same, Raymond does pose a sincere threat to Zatanna by the issue’s end.
This storyline has brought Zachary Zatara back into Zatanna’s life, and Dini does a good job of defining the relationship between the two between the covers of comic book stories past. There is room for growth and exploration for both characters, as well as further defining their relationship. That is one of the developments I’m looking forward to in the next issue as Dini continues to define the world around Zatanna.