Saturday, April 09, 2005

Review: Zatanna #1

Grant Morrison and Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. What comes to mind when you say these names in one breath? Well, besides strange philosophical views and beliefs in magick?
Profound writing, perhaps?

ZATANNA may not be PROMETHEA, but she is off to a good start in this first issue.

I was quite pleased to see Grant make reference to the SWAMP THING story that killed her father, even bringing Zatanna back to the place where he had died. That story, which culminated in SWAMP THING #50, featured the then-current mystical forces of the DC Universe as they combatted an evil that was spawned from the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS maxi-series. Zatara was not the only one who met his demise in that tale and Baron Winter's comment near the end of this book comes off darkly humorous.
That SWAMP THING story has since become a cornerstone in the writing of these characters. Up until then, no one could ever get a handle on mystical or magical heroes. Writers couldn't come up with ways to make them compelling. They were deemed too powerful and left to wander in the backgrounds, brought in usually as a deus ex machina in large scale stories.

The only other mainstream attempt that succeeded at grasping the concept and telling an interesting story was Neil Gaiman's BOOKS OF MAGIC, which introduced the young Tim Hunter.

It's long been my belief that if you like these characters and want to collect and read their appearances then that SWAMP THING story (SWAMP THING VOL. 4: MURDER OF CROWS) and the BOOKS OF MAGIC mini-series were the end-all, be-all. Nothing else even comes remotely close.

Alan Moore's done some interesting stuff with PROMETHEA, and I'll admit that I just recently started reading it as I picked up Volume 1 only a few weeks ago. However, it's a bit more involved since the series stems mostly from Moore's own personal study of magick. And it isn't in the DC Universe.

ZATANNA #1 is a bit more accessable. It brings the reader into her world in a comfortable fashion. The journey from the material world to the astral plane is done in such a way that it enhances the illusion of storytelling.

I also felt the use of two seperate groups of characters to tell the story was a great touch, as well, as it helped seperate the events nicely.
I found the book almost... intoxicating.
Grant firmly kept one foot on the ground at all times so the reader wouldn't get uncomfortable. Pretty cool ride, nevertheless.

I also thought that her "support group" (which includes Gimmix from SEVEN SOLDIERS #0), reminded me a bit of the movie Mystery Men as far as how they saw themselves. And my personal interpretation of it gave it a whole other level of entertainment as I saw Zatanna as an everyman, err... everywoman, mingling with these self-appointed losers.

I did not expect the adventure at Baron Winter's to end the way it did. Likewise, I didn't expect the last two pages of the comic, either. Grant did a great job of surprising and I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Ryan Sook did a fantastic job on all of the various characters and I really must give him credit for me drawing the Mystery Men connection as it's his characterizations of these misfits that inspired it. Each person in the comic had their own personality and it was conveyed flawlessly. I don't think I've ever seen Zatanna look so human. Or Zatara so imposing.
He also did a wonderful job on the astral journey pages. That stuff was just beautiful.

On a side note, I just read ALAN MOORE'S WRITING FOR COMICS and I feel that either he and Grant share the same comic book theories or Grant read it, as well.
This Seven Soldiers project is definitely something I would consider creatively challenging. And I'm sure Mr. Moore would agree.
Hell, Moore would probably even like this.

I'm also expecting Grant to be at least nominated for an Eisner or a Harvey next year for the SEVEN SOLDIERS books. If he isn't then there is no justice in the world.

For more info about Grant Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY, check out my continually updated feature.

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