Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Zatanna Shades of the Past TPB

Holy crap what a good read!

This is the exact opposite of everything I don't like about trade paperbacks:

It's a collection of (very clever or scary or funny) standalone stories, not a giant epic mess of retcon madness which is just a smaller part of a larger retcon madness.

The art is beautiful and consistent on every page, there's only one chapter that has more than one penciller.

A working knowledge of DC magic characters from the past helps the reader, but is not mandatory.

I would like to say no loose strings, but Brother Night pops up in the background, leading you to think he'll be there for the finish. He isn't, but it doesn't take away from the enjoyability of the book.

Some details:

This collects Zatanna 7-16

The stories: Shades by Adam Beechen and Chad Hardin. Magicians' relics come alive to cause trouble. Cool idea, very good art.

Pupaphobia by Paul Dini and Cliff Chiang. A multi-part thriller about a marionette who may or may not be evil. Twists and turns and the art goes from very good to beautiful.

Symmetry by Matthew Sturges and Stephane Roux. How freaking clever. Everyone knows Zatanna and Zatara cast their spells by speaking backwards, but in the 75 years of this conceit, writer Sturges was the first to ask, "How does this apply to palindromes?" Brilliant! Once again some sexy, compelling art and great facial expressions.

Brace Yourself by Adam Beechen and Jama Ingle. Zatanna gets the Li'l Archie treatment.  A story of Zatanna as an awkward tween. Really an homage to the great back-up stories from the 60s and 70s where a writer could take the heroes out of continuity and focus on character. I was thinking of The Private Life of Clark Kent stories from Superman and Action in the 70s, or the Elongated Man's mini-mysteries in the back of Detective. Great work by Igle.

The Cat with the Crystal Ball Eye by Dini and Igle. The book's lone non-standalone story. The Spectre, Brother Night, and Dale Colton all show up in  a story that finishes somewhere, but not in this volume. Take this chapter out and run it in a volume with that story.

Wingman by Beechen and Igle and Travis Moore. Cute story about a night out with Zatanna and her irresponsible cousin Zachary. I'm not crazy about changing pencillers in midstream, but there's no change in quality, just style. Igle's work is traditional with some good facial expressions, Moore's work is reminiscent of Gene Colan's (faces in shadows, simply drawn) (in a good way).

Witch Hunt by Derek Fridolfs and Igle. A pack of witch hunters hunts down Zatanna. The action starts on page 2 and doesn't let up til the last page. And a clever resolution to boot.

The Sorceress' Apprentice by Beechen and Victor Ibanez. More great art in a book full of great art. (check out the library!). Zatanna chases an extra-dimensional imp. Not heavy, but a lot of fun.

And then there's the painted covers by Adam Hughes. This artist is of course amazing. His women just define pin-up sexuality. The covers alone are worth the price of admission.

Finally, it occurred to me about half-way through why I was enjoying this book as much as I was. It was like the 70s all over again and I was reading - no, not reading - getting sucked into a DC 100 Page Super-Spetacular. In all my posts in which I complain about DC today, the underlying complaint is they don't make them like the used to. This is how they used to make them.

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