Review: Zatanna #10

Published on March 15th, 2011

As of late, there have been quite a few DC books involved in some crossover event. However, one of the better titles that has abstained from that format is Zatanna. This most recent/current story-arc isn’t quite on par with the one that kicked off the series, but it’s still pretty damn solid.

zatanna10Last issue, we saw our eponymous heroine have a childhood memory of her own attempted murder restored. Years ago Zatanna’s father, John Zatarra, had imprisoned puppeteer Oscar Hampel (now calling himself Stringleshanks) in one of his very own marionettes and wiped Zee’s mind to protect her from the horrific event. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that what really happened was that Hampel was being blackmailed by a man (who Oscar then killed) and, in an act of desperation, tried to rob a lock box, was caught by Mr. Zatara, grabbed a young Zatanna, and was then transformed into a puppet by John. After Zatanna hears this story, she takes pity on Hampel and promises to restore him to his human state. In order to do that, the pair magically ventured through a mirror to the Zatara ancestral mansion of Shadowcrest.

Issue #10 picks up as ZZ and Stringleshanks enter Shadowcrest. The dummy is amazed by all the mystical artifacts that the Zatara family had collected over the years. Zee warns him that many of the objects are “sensitive to the touch”, and that any attempt made all willy-nilly to reverse his curse could be disastrous; so he’d better keep his stubby, little, wooden hands to himself. Stringleshanks then asks Zatanna why her family never tried to use their abilities for personal gain. She tells him that all Homo Magi, including the Zataras, know that magic should only be used as a tool and never a weapon.

Finally, after searching for an object to help undue Oscar’s transformation spell, ZZ finds the Soul Crystal. This crystal is the first step in restoring Hampel’s humanity. Zatanna explains that she can’t just undo what was done. Before a counter-spell can be cast she must fully understand the magic placed upon the puppet, and in turn why. In order to do all that, Hampel must touch the crystal. Stringleshanks doesn’t quite understand why it’s necessary since he’s already told Zatanna the true story of what had transpired. She basically tells him that he’s got good Karma on his side and that if his story is true he’s got nothing to worry about. He refuses, and Zee uses her magic to force his had upon the crystal. Through a line of questioning, Oscar reveals that the story of Zatanna’s “restored” memory was not true at all! In fact, Hampel was just a desperate man trying to rob a lockbox and was going to murder Zatanna before her father cursed Oscar. Somehow, Stringleshanks breaks free from the crystal and Zatanna’s power. As he runs away he grabs armfuls of the magic items in Shadowcrest and wishes himself to be human again, despite the earlier warning of their instability. By doing so, Hampel has apparently altered space and time. While he is now human again, and older and a famous puppeteer, his star attraction and marionette is none other than Zatanna herself! Dun dun dun!

The “B” story in this book is what I found more fascinating and entertaining. Back in the first storyline, Zatanna was working with a young San Francisco officer, Detective Colton, to bring down a cult led by a creepy guy named Brother Night. The duo eventually caught the fiend and sent him off to San Quentin (or as the cool kids call it “The Q”). Now, Brother Night is causing some trouble in that bubble. He’s getting his own powers back and it appears that he’s becoming more and more powerful. He’s gone so far as to murder doctors, guards, and entrance many of the other inmates. This plot is leading to what seems a darker theme to Zatanna, and I like it.

Paul Dini is just a great writer and I’m so happy with this book. Up until now, this series has never really shown any truly sinister characters or story elements. Sure, there have been some dark moments here and there, but it’s always been more in way of those old movie serials, you know? “Will Zatanna escape the evil clutches of this scary sorcerer?! Find out next week!” Now, we see the book leaning toward something that could be deadly and dangerous for others, and not just Zee. How is Colton going to deal with Brother Night with Zatanna now living her life as a puppet?! We’ll have to keep reading to find out!

Sam Taylor