Not the solicited issue about Zatanna and a ‘sinister puppet master’ by Paul Dini and Jesus Saiz, “Zatanna” #7 has Adam Beechen and Chad Hardin instead delivering a story about Zatanna in Los Angeles for the opening of a museum dedicated to the magicians of the DCU. The story is rooted in Zatanna’s family and comes out of her feelings, but doesn’t provide any significant insight or compelling threat to overcome. It’s a pleasant, innocuous issue with expressive, clean artwork. Not too good, not too bad, a solid one-off issue.
Beechen immediately injects the characterization of Zatanna with some humor by having her narrate on how much she hates Los Angeles. It’s an outgrowth of the usual complaints about the city, but also comes from her stage background. She prefers stage magic over anything done in the movies or on TV, and sees the two as competition of a sort. That’s contrasted with her father getting such enjoyment from the movies he did. Zatara’s small career is the focal point around which both Zatanna’s internal struggles and the external plot revolve, allowing both to work together with the resolution of one leading to the resolution of the other.
A museum for the magic characters in the DCU is a cool concept that could be revisited in the future like the Flash museum has been used from time to time. With seemingly safe magic relics in the museum’s possession, it’s not hard to see what it contributes to the DCU as far as a story generator.
Though the main problem of the issue stems from the museum and Zatara’s film career with Sargon’s turban animating itself to continue the deceased magician’s mission as a way to one-up Zatara, the problem never seems too threatening. It’s an absurd sort of problem that serves Zatanna’s inner conflict more than anything else. But, since Zatanna’s inner conflict is so shallow and simple, the issue ultimately feels light and fluffy.
Hardin’s art is a good match for that tone, though. The line work is very precise and clean, but sometimes to a fault, appearing rushed. The visual gags on the first page are very amusing with the man in the Batman costume cowering in fear, but the drawing of ‘Superman’ in the bottom panel stands out compared to the art on the rest of the page as looking unfinished. Background figures, or even figures not drawn in a close-up, suffer from this problem throughout the issue. His close-ups are very well done and show a strong awareness of how to communicate emotions through facial expressions.
“Zatanna” #7 may not be the next issue in Paul Dini’s run on the book, but Adam Beechen and Chad Hardin provide an entertaining fill-in story. The story is light, the characterization is spot-on, and it’s definitely worth a look.