Zatanna: The Mistress of Magic is my first exposure to the magical DC superheroine and upon finishing the work, I’m left wondering what I ever did without her in my catalog of favorite of comic book heroes. The graphic novel contains two stories written by Batman alum Paul Dini who explores Zatanna’s struggles with the mystical forces of darkness while also working as a performer for sell out theater crowds. Dini’s first story arc pits Zatanna against a demonic creature named Brother Night who sends his minions to destroy our heroine in order to invade and control San Francisco. After defeating evil and saving the human realm from demonic enslavement, Zatanna finds herself in the glitzy town of Las Vegas, running a show at a new casino run by a fellow who entered into a lifelong contract with the demon god of wealth. The demigod brokers a deal with the hotshot owner: deliver Zatanna’s soul and his infernal fate will be avoided.
What attracts me to the character, as depicted in this graphic novel, is how different her adventures are from most other super heroes. While characters like Superman, Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man fight larger than life villains birthed chemically, genetically, or cosmologically; Zatanna’s primary foe seems to come directly from the world of demons and the paranormal. As such, there’s a strong resemblance to Hellblazer’s Constantine (a cursory Internet search reveals that the pair were, at one time, lovers and Zatanna made an appearance in his series). What really attracts me to the character is how she embraces her otherworldly abilities by spending her off hours as a stage magician. Most characters make it a point to shield or withhold their gifts whenever necessary, while Zatanna appears to have no qualms about using her powers to make money and a name for herself.
For someone who has had very little exposure to the character and the world she lives in, the stories presented in Mistress of Magic served as a great introduction. Dini’s scripts are enjoyable, although the second story’s use of a tired love potion plot is a bit weak. The artwork makes noticeable changes throughout the book as different illustrators are tapped to finish the work, resulting in a familiar thought process of mine: “Well, this artist’s work here is good, but I wish the previous illustrator stuck around…” It is difficult for me to speculate where longstanding DC comic veterans stand on Zatanna and her appearance in this collection. For this newcomer, however, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.