Reviews Of Old(ish) Comics: Zatanna: Everyday Magic
In honor of Halloween Month here at Needless Essentials, I chose to review an old comic that’s not quite as old as I would normally consider reviewing for this semi-regular feature. For this, we go back just 11 years, which for some of you may seem like a long time ago, but to an old timer like me, it seems not so long ago.
John Constantine is having a drink at Club Bewitched, last visited during the Books of Magic mini-series. The club owner, Tanarak directs his attention to an attractive young woman, Nimue who seems to know Zatanna, whose travel is the reason Constantine is at the club instead of visiting her. He easily picks her up.
Zatanna is performing in a casino showroom and completely astounding the audience and the announcer, who takes the opportunity of apologizing for mispronouncing her name to hit on her. Zatanna finds him appealing enough to take back to her room. Unfortunately, she oversleeps and misses her flight, having to resort to magic to make the next show in Denver. Her rabbit narrates her origin and how she sometimes uses her magic to punish would-be suitors who massively offend her.
Zatanna returns home but notices something slightly amiss, and discovers Constantine asleep and hungover in her bed. Nimue has cursed him with a monstrous mouth in his left hand and a pursuing minor demon intent on taking his life.. Zatanna reveals that Nimue is a newer practitioner of magic who ensnares men with her spells. She assures Constantine that she will handle Nimue and get the curse lifted.
Zatanna arrives at Nimues house to find her collecting men she has ensnared as frogs. Nimue misdirects Zatanna and pokes her with a needle that uses the victim’s blood and transfers it to the wielder. Zatanna’s life force is extremely powerful, and Nimue’s plan with Constantine was to use him to trap Zatanna and gain her power. Unfortunately for her, Zatanna keeps her talking long enough to change her into a sloth and get her to release him from her power. Zatanna frees the men that she transformed into frogs and leaves Nimue at their mercy.
Zatanna returns home to find Constantine suitably scaring the visiting announcer from the beginning of the story with the various ways she has dispatched of men that she failed at relationships with.He runs off scared and Zatanna gets upset at him throwing him out onto the lawn, explaining that part of the reason she doesn’t get too attached to anyone is the risk of them being hurt by their association with her. She shoos him off and takes a relaxing bath.
In the bath, she realizes that Cimue did not use her real name in releasing Constantine and rushes to rescue him from the demon pursuing him.The feedback of defeating the demon hits Nimue and hurts her badly. Zatanna resumes what passes for a normal life, realizing that a date is a complete pig, caring for her stage animals, and visiting Nimue in the hospital. She returns to the road and yet another would-be suitor in another city.
The story by Paul Dini seems very straight-forward, but does an excellent job of fleshing out Zatanna’s character in a way that wouldn’t be seen again until she got her own series that he would again write. His characterization of Constantine seems a little off, making him a supporting character to be rescued instead of a potent force in his own right, albeit one without actual magical power. Zatanna’s use of magic in her everyday life is extremely entertaining, and her troubled romantic life is a nice trade off to her success in other areas. Nimue is a believable villain, showing someone who gained a taste for magic and wanted more and more, never being satisfied.
Rick Mays has a very distinctive style that seems a perfect match for the light-hearted storytelling style of Paul Dini, but fails at the darker aspects of the story, so we never truly believe Zatanna or Constantine are in any real danger. The style is also very unlike most Vertigo books, but that adds a charm to it. It also does an excellent job of getting across the humor in the story, which can be hard to do in a story that hinges on Vertigo characters.
Being that it is a prestige format book, finding it may prove difficult if you’re simply relying on comic book shops. and this one can get expensive to buy since it’s out of print. Look for a copy in lesser condition if you want to save a few bucks.
FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of a possible 10)
If you can land a copy, it’s worth holding on to.