Saturday, May 22, 2010

Super-Witch Profile: Zatanna Zatara, Mistress of Magic

Zatanna Zatara makes her living as a stage magician and uses her real magical powers to fight demons and supervillains, both on her own and in the Justice League of America.  Her nearly limitless powers make her one of the most powerful people in the DC Universe.

Zatanna (nicknamed "Zee") is the daughter of magician Giovanni (John) Zatara and Sindella, a sorceress of the Homo magi race.  She learned magic from lost texts of Leonardo Da Vinci's--a distant relative of the Zataras--that she discovers in her father's study when he goes missing.  From them she learns the family trick of casting spells by saying them backwards.  After enlisting the help of various JLA members to help her find her father, she formed an association with the team, eventually joining it.

She has struggled with the moral weight her powers put on her-- and for good reason.  She has occasionally used her powers to alter the memories and personalities of villains, heroes, and civilians alike, and some of her magical exploration has gotten people killed.  But through it all, she remains fun-loving and optimistic.

Her new ongoing series started on Wednesday with Zatanna #1, and it's off to a great start!  Zatanna's help is sought by a skeptical cop looking for answers in a bizarre mass killing of mob bosses.  She quickly gets to the bottom of it, and after a tense encounter with the evil sorcerer-culprit, the chase is on-- which should give her and the cop some time to get to know each other... (To find a comic shop near you, go to

Some other Zatanna stories you might want to check out are:

Zatanna: Everyday Magic - A short graphic novel where Zee's old flame John Constantine interrupts her hectic life of touring and budding romance after his recent fling leaves him with a demon on his tail.  A good, fun introduction to the character.

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna - Zatanna goes into superhero rehab after a magical experiment goes awry, killing four other magicians and stripping her of her powers.  A young girl with magical powers of her own convinces Zee to take her on as an apprentice to help her fix her mistakes.  Technically part of a vast crossover with six other minor superheroes, her story stands fine on its own.  Unfortunately, the only way to read this story on its own is in the original four issues, readily available on eBay.

If you want to try some old-school comics and read Zatanna's first appearances, then check out JLA: Zatanna's Search.  Her first storyline that ran from 1962-64, this book tells the story of how Zatanna enlisted the help of various superheroes to help her find her missing father, plus a bonus story about how she first discovered her own powers.

Zatanna: Come Together is a 1993 mini-series, her first solo venture.  It's a highly experimental story about her exploring her mystical heritage from her mother's side with gorgeous art by Esteban Maroto.  Again, it hasn't been released in collected form, so your best bet is to get it on eBay.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jinx by Meg Cabot

Jean Honeychurch is cursed.  She's knows she's cursed because she was born during a supercell storm, she's always finding new ways to hurt herself, and she has to move from Iowa to her aunt and uncle's house in New York City to escape her stalker.  She's doubly cursed because of the stupid nickname her rotten luck has garnered her: Jinx.  But when she gets to New York, her cousin Tory corners her with an old family legend-- they're descended from a real witch who was burned at the stake hundreds of years ago, and Tory is convinced they've both inherited her powers.  Jinx just wants to focus on fitting in at her new school and on her crush (and Tory's), the boy next door, Zach.  But Tory won't give up, and soon Jinx unwittingly finds herself locked in psychological and magical warfare with her cousin.  Just her luck.

This book is a fun, light read, much in the vein of Meg Cabot's other work.  The characters are incredible.  Jean is a total fish-out-of-water, and her confusion and frustration with NYC and its people are both sympathetic and funny. The conflict between her and Tory starts out as a simple crazy relative clash, but soon escalates to a full-on battle of wits, before making a sharp turn into the genuinely scary.  I envied her "just-a-friendship" with Zach-- anyone would love to be just-friends with such a sweet and funny guy that you can understand why she continues to hang out with him in spite of being convinced that he's got a crush on their au pair, Petra.  And as per usual for a Cabot novel, Jinx fails to notice how requited her crush on Zach is till the very end (but trust me, that's not a spoiler, because we all know it from the page he shows up on).  It's a good stand-alone novel-- a tight, coherent story that leaves you split between wanting more and not wanting to disturb them any further. One little niggle I had at the beginning was that Jean seemed to know a little too much about witchcraft for someone who claims to not want to have anything to do with it-- of course, there turns out to be a reason for this, but I feel like that hint could have been handled a little more smoothly.  Aside from that, I highly recommend this book-- pick it up for some fun summer reading!

You can read the first 54 pages on the HarperTeen website. (And you can finish out Chapter Six--which the preview ends in the middle of--at Meg Cabot's website)


Friday, May 7, 2010

Sweep: Book of Shadows, The Coven, & Blood Witch by Cate Tiernan

When Morgan Rowlands first sees the gorgeous new senior Cal Blaire at school, she falls for him, but remains firm in her belief that he would never be interested in her plain looks or flat chest.  But Cal turns out to be completely different from any other guy she's ever met-- to start with, he's a witch.  He invites Morgan to be a part of a new coven he starts up, and though she has no idea what to make of it at first, she decides to try it out. But after one circle, she knows she'll never be the same.  She discovers her hidden talent for magick-- a fact that has far deeper implications than she ever expected.  And as she taps in to her power and her history more and more, her relationship with Cal grows deeper.  Yet someone as powerful as she is is bound to attract attention, and not all of it good.  But how does she know who to trust?

Re-reading the first three Sweep books was like coming home for me.  As in Balefire, Tiernan builds a rich world, with a complex system of magick (based on Wiccan practices, but tweaked and enhanced to make for a more fantastic story) and an engaging cast of characters.  Morgan and Cal's magnetic attraction is a wonderful portrayal of first love.  And every single one of the supporting characters, no matter how minor, is fleshed out enough that you're rarely confused about their motivation (and if you are, it's probably because Tiernan is leading up to a reveal!), and even when they make bad decisions, you can't hold it against them, because you probably would have done the same thing.  The stories that intertwine, forming the overarching plot, leave you breathless with suspense, keeping you turning the pages desperate to know what happens next--only to leave you with yet another cliffhanger at the end!  Thankfully, there is plenty more where that came from.

The Sweep series (known as "Wicca" in the UK and elsewhere) originally came out from 2001 to 2003, which is when I first read it, and I can't help but feel it's finally gotten the treatment it deserves.  The first three books have been released in a fat bind-up edition (though for now it's only available at Wal-Mart; it will be released in all bookstores September 2nd, 2010, just a few days before the first book in Tiernan's new trilogy Immortal Beloved.)  The individual books are still available in bookstores if you can't wait, but keep in mind, they cost $7.99 each-- the same as the bind-up costs for three.  You can read the first 7 pages of Book of Shadows on the Penguin website.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spell-Checkers by Jamie S. Rich, Nicolas Hitori De, and Joëlle Jones

Let's be honest, if any of us had magic powers in high school, we'd use them to get the hot guys, ace every test, gain popularity, and rule the school in every possible way. Jesse, Kimmie, and Cynthia have done just that. Since they got their hands on an ancient spell book in elementary school, they've been the queen bees, filling out tests with a flick of the wrist and sending magical clones to gym class. But in high school, it starts to catch up with them-- magically-created graffiti that challenges their status starts popping up around the school, and the charmed dolls that are the conduits of their powers begin to disappear. They turn on each other, pointing fingers, because after all, they're the only witches in school...right?

Let me just start off this review by saying, that if you have an aversion to swearing, smoking, cattiness, shallowness, and every other Mean Girls kind of behavior, this book is not for you. That said, if you don't mind those, you'll have a really good time. These teenage witches aren't tiptoeing around the shadow of some karmic law-- they use magic in the way that we all secretly wish we could at some point or another. The story is very original, and you'll find yourself cheering for some of the most unsympathetic characters ever put to paper.
The art (mostly) by Hitori De is energetic, able to portray the girls as simultaneously evil and cute, and the story would not work without it. The flashback scenes by Joëlle Jones reflect the childlike mischievousness of their origin story.
This book is labelled "volume 1" so hopefully we don't have to wait too long for the next installment! You can read a 22-page preview here on the Oni Press website. Oni books take a while to get to regular bookstores, so it is currently only available online and at comic book stores. You can find one near you at, and if you drop by participating stores today (May 1st) you'll be able to take advantage of Free Comic Book Day, where stores give away samples of various publishers' upcoming offerings! I don't know if there's anything particularly Witchy being offered, but for fans of all YA urban fantasy, a preview of the graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments will be available from Th3rd World Studios.

Web Statistics