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Book: “Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend” by Alys Arden and Jacquelin De Leon (Ill.)
Publishing Info: DC Comics, July 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: There’s more to the mobsters, mystics, and mermaids at the last stop on the D/F/Q trains: Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.
Zatanna’s not your typical New Yorker. She walks her giant rabbit on a leather leash down the boardwalk, lives in a colossal architectural wonder known as the Golden Elephant, had her first kiss in the Haunted Hell Gate ride–and wouldn’t have it any other way.
But the time for having fun in Luna Park comes to an end when a mystic’s quest for a powerful jewel unravels everything Zatanna thought she knew about herself and her beloved neighborhood. Mysteries and magic surround her as she reveals the truth about her family’s legacy, and confronts the illusion that has been cast over her entire life.
From the bewitching mind behind The Casquette Girls, Alys Arden, and with enchanting artwork by Jacquelin de Leon, comes the story of a girl stuck in the middle of a magical rivalry and forced to choose between love, family, and magic without hurting anyone…or worse.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this graphic novel!
Though I have been fairly into DC for most of my life, I will fully admit that I haven’t encountered too much Zatanna. Sure, she does pop up here and there (I really liked her iteration in the “Bombshells” series), but she just isn’t really a character that I have encountered so much. Which is partially why I decided to pick up “Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend”. It was enticing in a few ways from the jump. For one, I love her design on the cover of his graphic novel: the the hat, the colors, everything. I also liked the concept of her being a Coney Island kid both in the sense of where she lives, but also in the sense of being part of a family of performers. I am always looking for more ladies in DC to enjoy, and “Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend” was a good primer for this character.
I liked Zatanna as a character in this, as she is very much a genial and intrepid teenage girl who loves her friends, loves her family, and loves her boyfriend. While her father Ezra puts pressure on her to join his magic act, which she isn’t really feeling, she has friends who are fortune tellers and other illusionists. She also has a boyfriend named Alexei who happens to be the son of a notoroious Russian mobster, though Alexei seems to be more tenderhearted than his family reputation. When Zatanna starts seeing strange backwards writing, and then starts to experience magic of her own, things get complicated. I liked the build up to this, as I felt that Alys Arden went at a good pace to build up background before really diving in to the story at hand. I liked the atmosphere of Luna City and Coney Island, and I liked seeing Zatanna deal with coming of age issues, be they pretty run of the mill, or more of the magical kind.
I do think that things get a little rushed in the last third. I mentioned above that I liked the background, and I definitely did, but then I felt that there was a rush to get to the heart of the story, with reveals and twists coming quickly. A lot of the time we didn’t get a moment to let some of these twists breathe, with a moment happening in one panel and then being yanked away only a couple panels later. I’m going to be vague because the moments I’m talking about are pretty spoiler heavy. But it made the focus between set up and conflict feel a bit unbalanced. Which is strange, because this is (apparently) a first volume of a continuing series. I don’t really know why the pacing got so disjointed when it could have been potentially spread out into another volume if need be, but hey, that could just be one reviewer’s opinion.
That said, I really liked the design of this book. I loved how Zatanna looked, and I loved the neon-y goodness of the Coney Island night life and the magical and opulent Luna City community.
I will probably keep going in the series as we have a true mystery at hand, and I did like this characterization of Zatanna. Plus, the artwork is to die for. I’m hoping the pacing can be a bit more balanced in the next volume, but I am intrigued by where Zatanna is going next.
Rating 7: A fun backstory for an underutilized DC heroine, with a lot of set up for future volumes, and a bit of a rushed conclusion.