It's a little surprising that Zatanna has never had her own ongoing series up until now. Sure, there's been the odd one-shot and mini-series here and there, some more successful than others, but considering the fan-favorite status of the character it's odd that DC Comics has never launched a full series before. Of course, with writer Paul Dini being well-known as Zatanna Fan #1, the question after a while wasn't if Dini would write this series, but when Dini would write this series.
The good news? It's an enjoyable first issue. Dini brings all the elements of Zatanna's life into the book's debut; her stage magician act, her past working with superheroes, her life straddling the line into the realm of the supernatural. That said, Dini doesn't waste much time with exposition; in a matter of pages the book is running, plunging Zatanna into a mystical murder scene in the heart of San Francisco.
There's a lot to like here. Zatanna casually agreeing to help out the police with a crime scene feels right; she's not overly dramatic about it, or fighting their request for help. No angst, just a quick agreement and they're off. Keeping Zatanna in San Francisco is nice, too; with so many books (both DC and Marvel) set on the East Coast of the country, keeping her situated in San Francisco instead of uprooting the character adds a piece of scenery that doesn't show up in many other comics. (And let's face it, the slight level of strangeness that the city revels in hosting makes it a great match for the character.) Best of all, though, Zatanna isn't someone to mess with. She's strong and in control the whole way through the issue, exactly the sort of protagonist you want to read about. She's actually a little too strong at times, at least in this first issue; after seeing her in action it's hard to imagine there being any sort of threat that can stop Zatanna, although I'm looking forward to seeing what Dini will throw in her path that won't be so easily defeated.
Stephane Roux and Karl Story provide the art, and it's beautiful. Up until now I'd only seen Roux's covers, so his pencils (with Story's always-gorgeous inks) are an exciting debut for me. They're graceful and full-bodied, reminding me of artists like Chris Sprouse and Tony Harris. I like how Roux makes Zatanna look comfortable no matter what she's wearing, from a turtleneck sweater and coat to her fishnet and top hat ensemble for when she's working. Add in a confident grin on her face, and Roux ends up drawing a charmer that'll steal your heart. John Kalisz uses the colors in "Zatanna" #1 to strong effect, too; the deep reds in the bad guy's lair add a level of danger to the visuals, and the contrast between the reds and the pale stage light that Zatanna is bathed in lets the character pop off the page.
I said earlier that Dini didn't waste much time with exposition, but the one thing that "Zatanna" #1 does do is set up the status quo. At the end of this issue every new and old reader alike knows who she is, what she does, how strong her powers are. From here? Dini's got the rest of the series wide open to do whatever he wants. I'm looking forward to seeing it.