Comic Review - Zatanna (2010-2011)

Zatanna is one of my absolute favorite characters from DC Comics. I first laid eyes on her during the animated DC shows of the 2000s and I have since sought her out as often as I could in comics. She’s gorgeous, immensely powerful, witty, intelligent, and a tremendous friend. A major addition to the JLA, the focus of several one-shot issues and limited series. But strangely enough, there has only ever been one ongoing title for the character. Lasting a total of 16 issues, 12 of them being penned by Paul Dini. Seeing as how I’m still waiting for her to get another solo ongoing, I figure the next best thing is to look back on this book. Ladies, gentlemen, everyone in between…welcome to the world of Zatanna!

I guess the first thing I should focus on is the art. It is solid work throughout the series. We have some bright colors, and the layouts look good, not bogged down by too much dialogue or narration. Every once in a while, they will have fun with a couple of panels. Like instead of a regular comic panel, she will appear in a giant word that reads POP! As mentioned, there is plenty of color in the book that helps capture the atmosphere of watching a stage magician. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have some shots depicting some more scary environments like Hell. And it can also capture that more grand feeling that the magical world can offer. Such as approaching Zatarra’s old study filled with lots of old and powerful artifacts and texts.

But of course, some of you might be wondering - how much fan service is in this book? To better explain what I mean, let’s compare it to another Paul Dini book from this era, Gotham City Sirens (another series I did a review on, in case you are curious). Early in that book’s run, I noticed that the art often depicted the female characters in positions and stances that did emphasize their physical attributes quite a bit. It got toned down after a little while, but I did tilt my head a few times wondering if it was necessary to draw the characters in those specific ways. Luckily, this book doesn’t have that issue. That aspect is mostly pulled back as it wants to focus on Zee as more than just a pretty woman. Well, okay, there is ONE big fanservice shot at the end of the first issue, but that’s it. And of course, I’m going to share that shot with you just now.

Well…this other shot is kind of suggestive too. But I swear, that’s it!

In this book’s defense, it does try and give her some eye candy to drool over too. BUt I’m going to take a wild guess based on her look that the team and the character aren’t on the same page regarding her likes in that field.

I guess it’s a good thing that in the final issue, she’s allowed to indulge in her own “mature” dream.

I want to know what the purpose of the cocoa butter is. But I should get back to the task at hand!

Fanservice shots in this book, while pulled back compared to something like the early issues of GCS, are unavoidable. But we do explore Zatanna’s world and her life which depicts her as a fleshed-out character. As well as a healthy balance of other emotions and moods. She loves her cousin Zachary even though he annoys her with his lack of attention to detail and focus. Such as when they go to the club after a show they put on together, where she hates the music (which I can relate to) and is frustrated that her cousin fell for a trap by a magical creature that could have been easily avoidable.


A pain sometimes, sure, but that’s family. And Zachary isn’t that bad of a guy. Earlier on in the series when Zee flies out to Vegas to see him, he does notice that something happened to make her suddenly disappear and helps her fight back against the man and the demon lord behind the scheme.

If you think being kidnapped and magically brainwashed to marry someone so he can sell your soul to a demon for eternal life is bad, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in the life of Zatanna. She also has to deal with a human-turned-demon who tries using the spirit of her dead father to kill her. Fight a group of zealots who want to kill her because she practices magic that they consider blasphemous. And she spent months trapped as a marionette, her consciousness constantly on the line between life and death. Speaking of puppets, did you know that in the DCU, Zee was once invited to appear on Sesame Street? No joke! Ok, they don’t use the show’s name, but that’s the show the comic is talking about. What’s more horrifying is how Zee failed to fight back her fear of puppets. Just check out the below panels.

Just look at off-brand Kermit’s face. He is disappointed AND traumatized at the same time! While that is admittedly funny, her fear of puppets stems from the fact that a struggling puppeteer once tried to kill her to hide another murder he did, but that memory had been wiped out of her by her father. I’m personally not a fan that DC during this era had Zee perform mind-wipes on other characters, an issue that Zee had to deal with once everyone knew she did that to them. So I guess having it happen to her is a low-key way of giving her a taste of her own medicine without going overboard.

Despite having only 16 issues, Zee manages to deal with a lot of things. One aspect that isn’t touched on that much is developing a romantic lead for her. There is one moment where it seems like she might be interested in a San Francisco detective she briefly partnered with at the beginning, but nothing comes from that. Speaking of things that never happened, there are a few things in this series that never got resolution due to Flashpoint. That detective I just mentioned is revealed to be the son of the human-turned-demon, named Brother Night, from the beginning of Zatanna’s book. While Brother Night is captured by the police, he manages to escape and takes over a club, which was likely going to be the new base of his operations if the book had continued. Hell, the series even teased some sort of epic clash between Zee and The Spectre! That would have been awesome! Sadly though, that never came to pass.

The best way to sum up the overall tone of the book is by taking a look at the final issue. Zee flies back to San Francisco after a long flight and just wants to go to sleep late at night. But then a witch boy (not Klarion, but another one I guess) enters her home and claims to want to be her apprentice. That turns out to be a lie, he grabs a book he plans to use for his evil schemes, and they have a brief chase until she captures him and drops him back to his dimension. Finally ending with her getting some much-needed sleep. As you might be able to gather, while the book can depict more serious and tension-filled scenarios, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its story-telling nor does it have a big epic feel to it.

But that’s the appeal of Zatanna and her type of magic, isn’t it? Turning the seemingly ordinary and underwhelming into something wonderful, a spectacle that gives you a sense of joy and fun. Because at the end of the day, that’s who she is. There is no doubt she is one of the most powerful magic users in the entire DCU, that was never in question. However, Zatanna is still someone who wants to bring joy to others and make the world better in her unique way. She is a delight and so is this solo book of hers.

I wasn’t kidding earlier, I desperately want her to have an ongoing book again. Following Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths she’s put in the position where she can be seen regularly helping other heroes with their magical problems. Even teaming up with Cliff from the Doom Patrol to kick some Nightmare butt! This series proves she can work in that kind of premise, having something not quite large in scale but can still be imaginative and fun to read. For now, I’m glad she is taking some time off to relax. So I’ll let her get back to her “mature” dream as described in the final issue.


I agree with almost everything!


I’m curious about the “almost”


I never finished the last two or three issues so I don’t feel comfortable saying “completely”


No time like the present to finish it


I’m reading like 4 different series rn lol


Paul Dini’s Zatanna is quite the magical read and remains a highlight of Dini’s tenure at DC in the '00s and into the '10s.

Its something of a headscratcher that Zee hasn’t had a solo ongoing series since the '10-'11 series ended.

If DC wants to add a bit more magic to the Dawn of DC initiative, a new Zatanna ongoing would be tsom emoclew.