Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekend Reading, and a Review

Despite the fact that this turned out to be quite the busy holiday weekend, I did manage to sit down on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon to read some comics. Which is something I really, really needed to do, because I was starting to feel a little burnt out.

And when I call it a "holiday" weekend, I don't mean that to sound like I wasn't at work for a good portion of it. Because I was.

At work, I mean.

Anyway, I did get to read some comics, and for the most part, I was very happy with what I read. There are a few nagging things that continuously annoy me about mainstream super hero comics, though, and such things tend to get in the way of my enjoyment of a character or a title.

You know, things like comic book "events" that never seem to actually start, and instead remain in a "prelude" for 8 months, despite the fact that the company keeps hitting us over the head with copy such as, "This is it!" and "Event Name Begins Right Here!"

Those kinds of things are, well, they're annoying. I can't put it any clearer than that.

And, yes, I know that in most cases, such things happen because of delays on certain books that are crucial to the actual event. Publishing is publishing, after all, and things like missed deadlines are just a part of the game.

Though, if they were to happen in my corner of the publishing world at a rate anywhere near that of comics, I would know a lot less people in publishing, if you catch my drift.

Sure you do.

But back to the books that didn't annoy me. Like Zatanna, issue 12, by Matt Sturges and Stephane Roux. This is one of those comics that I'd recommend to a non-comics-reading friend, or to a friend who reads comics, but isn't big on the capes and tights.
Sturges, who is the writer of my favorite DC/Vertigo book, House of Mystery, is perfectly suited to tell this story, which follows DC's backwards-talking magician, Zatanna.

And, for those not in the know, Zatanna is an incredibly powerful character in the DCU, as she possesses the ability to do pretty much anything, as long as she commands it to happen.

The catch is that she must issue those commands backwards.

Which can get pretty complicated, as you might imagine. It's a cool conceit for a super hero, but it's one that has felt tired and overused in the past. In an attempt to rectify this, DC's current Zatanna ongoing, normally written by Paul Dini, has gone a long way towards making the character relevant again in the DCU.

Dini has been the main architect of the modern Zatanna, first writing her into a number of memorable Batman: The Animated Series episodes, and then breathing new life into her comics counterpart with the wonderful original graphic novel, Everyday Magic.

Dini is always a tough act to follow, but last week's issue 12 proved that it can be done, and done well. Sturges' one-shot (presumably a filler issue to give Dini a breather) is a perfect place for new readers to give the book a chance.

All you need to know going in is that Zatanna is a magician/super hero who utters commands backwards. That's it. In 22 short pages, Sturges manages to give us a nice character study while delivering an action-filled issue.

He even mixes in concepts previously unused in a Zatanna book, and they go a long way in developing the character beyond the whole, "magician" "speaks backwards" thing.

For example, as the issue opens, we see Zatanna in her dressing room (she's a stage magician, by the way), using flash cards to practice saying words and phrases backwards.

While it works well as a cute aside, the scene actually goes much further than that in terms of answering questions about who Zatanna is. I'll admit that I kinda just assumed she was fluent in backwards speak, and anything she could think of--"!gip a otni mih nrut"--shed's just be able to say, without thinking too hard about it.

Here, we see that's not the case.

Instead, Z has to practice and ultimately choose which phrases to attempt to use in battle. Words that prove too difficult to memorize have to be scrapped for shorter, simpler ones, and sometimes this can have an effect on just what Zatanna is capable of.

Very cool scene, and one that's been picked up on quite a bit this week.

The story itself follows a new villain, Backslash, who has captured a fairy and managed to steal a sword that cuts backwards through time. Another great concept, and one that can certainly wreak havoc in the wrong hands.

Backslash, of course, is the wrong hands. know what I mean.

Every attack by Zatanna is easily countered by Backslash, and in order to even up the fight, Z has to come up with something exceedingly clever. And, no, I won't spoil it here, because it is so clever. You'll just have to see for yourselves. And at $2.99, I think DC has the perfect jumping-on issue for anyone interested.

In his first crack at the character, Sturges hits a home run, and I for one hope to see him on this book again.

Oh--and the art!

Stephane Roux, who drew the first arc of the series and has since turned in some stunning covers for the book, returns for this issue. And his work, as always, is great. His style is perfect for the character--think European Adam Hughes--and, as the owner of the original art of one of those aforementioned covers, I can tell you honestly that his line work is incredible.

Zatanna, issue 12, is one of those rare books that you could justify buying for the art alone, or for the writing alone. Luckily, both are spot-on. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

-- -- -- --

I read a whole lot more this weekend, and while I was planning on doing a quick hits type of review for today, I enjoyed going a little more in depth. So, instead, I think what I'll do is review a book or two a day, because I read some really high-quality stuff.


So, this will be continued. Promise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't remember her having any powers in batman...other great assets though!