BLACK CANARY AND ZATANNA: BLOODSPELL OGN
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Joe Quinones
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: May 21, 2014
For whatever reason, I’ve never put Black Canary and Zatanna together in my head. Maybe it’s because they both always seemed to work so well with different male characters in the Bronze Age — Canary with Green Arrow and Green Lantern, and Zatanna with the Flash, the Hawks, or Elongated Man — or because Dinah has been so closely associated with lots of female heroes since, none of which was the Mistress of Magic.
In truth, they don’t have that much in common, but sometimes, the best of friends don’t. And therein lies the — dare I say it — magic of the original graphic novel by writer Paul Dini and artist Joe Quinones, drawing these two women together to make something that shouldn’t work, work.
Concentrating on an undercover case Black Canary took on that inadvertently led her to being a part of a blood magic spell, this book takes one adventure and, through flashback and fantastic character interaction, creates an entire history between these two women that feels utterly natural and endearing. Make no mistake, Dinah and Zatanna aren’t the sit-up-all-night-talking-about-their-feelings type of best friend. They rib. They cajole. But we’re left with the sense of a bond that is so well-developed in the space of 80 odd pages that I am left wondering why no one ever thought to pair them up before.
Dini’s clever weave of flashbacks to earlier days does a lot of the heavy lifting, admittedly. Seeing a teenage Zatanna and Dinah, meeting for the first time on the side of a Himalayan peak, is nicely written, but the most brilliant scene that forms the basis of their connection comes with Zatanna’s first visit to the JLA satellite. The contrast between a harder edge Canary and this young novice is so well crafted, balancing humor with a real sense of honesty, that we really get the best glimpse of why two people so different from each other could end up liking each other’s company.
What you get to see develop over the course of the book is what that kind of connection looks like after adding 10 more years of maturity to the mix — a Zatanna who still retains the wonder of her earlier naïve self, but with wisdom to back it up, and a Canary who has softened a bit around the edges, but still is a brute force to be reckoned with.
Quinones handles that balance really well, handing readers a rendering of both women that does not trade on gratuitous sex at all. These women are built to feel like real athletes, and while they certainly are beautiful and desirable, neither is made to feel like the object of anyone else’s gaze — even in the most amusing bits involving a sly comparison to yet another independent woman of the DCU set.
Action is totally fun throughout, but the real value is Quinones’ treatment of each woman’s emotional features, giving them a funny charisma that isn’t always easily transmitted on the page. And it’s no wonder, given the design work the artist went through to see this book to its completion. Select sketches are included in addition to Dini’s original script work, and the end result is a volume that not only entertains, but gives comic fans a really strong peek into the story process.
A light-hearted adventure that defies the realism that grips a lot of modern day comics, but also upends the continuity of all that came before the New 52, Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell is a unique vision for two characters that don’t get nearly enough attention on their own. Were this the first volume of an ongoing series, or even the first volume of a series of original graphic novels featuring other great female protagonists, I would be over the moon and saving my dollars for future editions. Either way, this book is worth purchasing in hardcover and propping up on your shelf.
If you want fun in your heroes, love these two ladies, or just want to see a really well done story develop in front of your eyes, this is the book for you.
The Verdict: 9.5/10