Bloodspell. In short. No one writes Zatanna as well as Paul Dini.
Bloodspell was not what I expected it to be and that is a good thing. I knew the idea behind bringing these two together was an off the cuff remark by Dini years ago about doing a Zatanna/Black Canary story that he was jokingly referred to as "Trouble in Fishnets". But this was so much more than that.
The eponymous "Bloodspell" is only a plot device (though it is a good one, more later) to tell the real story. The story about two very different kinds of women and their long friendship.
When we first see the characters in the book Zatanna is a 12 year old sorceress in training. Nice cameos here by her father AND mother. She meets 16 year old Dinah on the top of Mt. Everest. Zatanna floated up, Dinah climbed. Both to prove they could do it.
We fast forward a number of years to Dinah/Black Canary foiling a heist while undercover. She defeats the baddie, but soon all the members of the heist start dropping dead. Canary takes her concerns to Zee and they discover that Canary is under a Blood curse. I'll leave it at that since I don't want to spoil the reading.
Like I said though the Bloodspell takes a backseat to the real story. The friendship between Zee and Dinah. We are treated to a number of "insider" jokes (Green Arrow not having a car anymore because Batman made fun of it) and cameos of Superman, Plasticman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and of course Green Arrow and Zatara. Plus there are some great scenes too. Zee animating the Black Canary and Green Arrow action figures (all profits of the sales of official JL merchandise go to help the children hurt by super-villains), to Canary mentioning that "the Hawks speak very highly" of Zee (a nod to Zatanna's first appearance in the pages of Hawkman. To what is a good reason for Ollie not to bring expensive glass vases of flowers to Dinah's apartment.
We also get to see via flashbacks important milestones in the friendship of Zee and Dinah. Zee's first trip to the Watchtower thanks to Dinah (featuring their older costumes) and Zee and Dinah (with Wonder Woman and Plastic Man) battling Granny Goodness and her Female Furies. Also with costumes appropriate to the publishing time.
No one gets Zatanna quite like Paul Dini. This in not the new 52 DC, this is classic DCU and Paul Dini has Zatanna's voice down so well he can make us really feel for her at these different points in her life. He can do powerful Zatanna, stage magician Zatanna and even starry eyed fan girl Zatanna on her first trip to the Watchtower. Equally he shows us a great evolution of Black Canary from "Loud Mouthed Girl" to founding member of the Justice League.
But just like this is not just Zee's story, it is also not just Paul Dini's. The illustrations from Joe Quinones bring this to life. Teenage Zee and Dinah are adorable and quickly sets the stage for how different they are. The short hair-perm of Zee on the Watchtower easily makes you think that this is still a very young hero.
Quinones has been showing off his work on his blog for a number of months, but one of the real treats with the book are all the sketches in back (with Dini's original script) that show how this project evolved under the creative talents of both men.
For those that are curious does Bloodspell pass the Bechdel Test? This is fair to ask since the book does feature two female leads. Briefly the test of the media is:
1) Two named female characters
2) who talk to each other
3) about something other than a man.
Bloodspell is passed this test in the first few pages and then went on to pass it over and over again. Zee and Black Canary are fully realized characters with names. Who spend pages talking to each other on every sort of topic to who gets the money from licensed products, to Zee's tiger, to whether or not stores should give them a bulk-discount on fishnets, to basically recalling years of friendship and kicking evil's ass. The two main men in their lives are either dead (Zatara) or sidelined (Ollie Queen). Important to them, but not to this story so much.
It also passes the Mako Mori Test, as both characters have arcs. Well Canaray's arc is more relevant to the story at hand.
Honestly there is nothing I didn't like about Bloodspell. Black Canary was one of my first super-girl crushes and I have always loved Zatanna. Paul Dini is a master at his craft and no one can do Zee better. Quinones is also a master, but in a more subtle way that makes you check every panel to make sure you didn't miss something important.
The story has been described as feeling like it was taken out of the Justice League Unlimited series. I can totally see that. It actually shares a number of similarities with the Batman the Animated Series episode "Zatanna".
I hope against hope that this is not the only chapter in the adventures of this Dynamic Duo. But it nearly took us 8 years for this one, I hope more won't be as long.