In this issue,Zatanna gets a visit from a magical cat who alerts her to Brother Night’s emergence on the playing field again, but also hands down a much more ominous portent regarding The Spectre. Zatanna seeks The Spectre out to see if they’re are on a crash course for something bad. Meanwhile Detective Colton watches Brother Night escape from normal guy prison. Why he’s in normal guy prison is anyone’s guess, and is the biggest “huh?!” of the issue.
Jamal Igle’s art continues to impress here with its excellent pacing and exceptional storytelling. The art is beautiful from moment to moment and from the small details to the big picture. Igle is the kind of artist you ache to have on any book, but especially a book like this with a female lead. Igle brings the kind of consistency that comic fans always hope for, but so rarely get - characters who always look and move and dress as they should. Art this good should give Paul Dini lots of room, unfortunately he doesn’t do much with it. With an artist this talented (not to mention a book about magic) it seems like you’d want to stretch your wings even wider, soar to epic heights, but “Zatanna” just kind of rambles. The exceptional Adam Hughes cover, hints at badassery meets hilarity inside (which Igle could well deliver I’m sure) but badassery and hilarity are both sadly absent.
In addition to a strange lack of ambition overall, Dini’s story suffers from some serious logic failure. Brother Night, a character I personally don’t find very compelling, despite apparently being Zatanna’s premiere nemesis, escapes from prison in this issue. But why on earth Brother Night, a massively powerful magician is in gen pop of your average prison boggles the mind, and just feels incredibly lazy. Dini tries to suggest that it was okay for him to be there when he was unconscious, but now that he’s awake he should be moved, but there’s just no reason he should have ever been at “normal person prison”. Night of course escapes in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, but you’re almost glad, because anyone stupid enough to not see that coming probably deserves whatever they get. Additionally, the reveal in this issue about Detective Colton’s family, since we barely know him and thus barely care, is tepid at best. It’s also a bit cliché, though I think I could forgive that if I was more invested in Colton as a character. The side story, about Zatanna’s trip to find out if she and The Spectre are headed for some sort of disastrous disagreement is more intriguing and hints at interesting things to come.
“Zatanna” is not a bad comic book, and it has had its highs and lows over the last year, but this issue, which despite fantastic art, feels just mediocre, unfortunately seems to be the default setting. Dini’s writing has been solid throughout the series, but the plotting lacks imagination and significance and the issues end up being mostly forgettable. I keep reading because I like the Zatanna character, but I sure wish they’d find something truly magical for her to do.