Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell Part 2

Click here to review Part 1.

The Black Canary and Zatanna original graphic novel, Bloodspell, opened with a prologue showing the ladies' first meeting as precocious and strong-willed young women.  We then jumped forward a few years to a second prologue showing Black Canary disrupting a casino heist by a thief named Tina Spettro.  Prior to the heist, Tina forced Dinah and the other women in her gang to pledge a loyalty oath that included drawing blood from their fingers and reciting an ominous-sounding Latin spell.  Black Canary chased Tina across Las Vegas; the pursuit ended with the thief dying in a fiery head-on collision.

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell is written by Paul Dini, who earned a lifetime supply of geek-adoration from his days on Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited.  Art for the book is provided by Joe Quinones, who did a masterful job on the Green Lantern feature of Wednesday's Comics.

The story picks up in present day with Dinah and Oliver Queen in bed after making loud, passionate love.  Whatever kind of move Ollie uses results in a climactic (heh-heh) "canary cry" of ecstasy that shatters a flower vase in another room.

Dinah and Ollie's relationship has always been highly sexualized, but I don't recall ever getting a masturbation joke as overt as this one.  Dini may have cut his teeth writing cartoons, and Quinones' art feels like a cousin of Bruce Timm's DCAU house style, but the tone of this book doesn't feel like it's for young kids.

Anyway, Dinah recognizes the name of a suicide victim.  Meghan Taylor was one of the girls in Tina Spettro's gang who called Black Canary for help.  Immediately after the story breaks on TV, Dinah gets a phone call from Betty Jo, yet another one of Spettro's accomplices.  Dinah gets dressed while Betty Jo explains that Meghan left a suicide note apologizing for her betrayal in Las Vegas a year ago.  Then, abruptly, Betty Jo's tone of voice changes and she tells Dinah she intends to throw herself off the harbor ferry.

Black Canary jumps on her motorcycle and roars down the highway.  She ramps the bike up and over the side of the bridge, coming down on the ferry and skidding to a halt against the fender of a parked car.

Black Canary finds Betty Jo leaning out over the railing.  She warns the girl what will happen if she goes over the side, a prospect that seems to excite Betty Jo for a moment.  Then, all of a sudden, Betty Jo seems to snap out of it and wonder where she even is.  She's so distracted that she loses her grip on the railing and falls, and Black Canary watches the girl get dragged beneath the boat.

Dinah noticed the change in Betty Jo's character on the phone and in the moment before she died.  And she's afraid that the late Tina Spettro is responsible somehow.

Later that night, Black Canary picks up Ollie, who has now donned his Green Arrow costume and rides on the back of her motorcycle.  She makes fun of him for getting rid of his old Arrowmobile because Batman gave him a hard time about it.

They ride out to a mobile home community to find Lauren, another member of the Spettro gang.  Lauren isn't answering her phone or knocks at the door.  Green Arrow notices a power strip leading from the house to the swimming pool, and when they investigate, they find the pool filled with electrical appliances... and Lauren's lifeless body.

One other thing Ollie notices: a bizarre tattoo on Lauren's arm.  Black Canary doesn't recognize the tattoo, but she knows someone who might.

We catch up with Zatanna in the present day summoning... monkeys?  Yep, monkeys.  For kids!

Dinah recalls Zatanna's first day aboard the Justice League Satellite ten years ago and how green Zatanna acted at the time.  From describing the League's teleportation effect as "tingly" to making a nerd-fool of herself in front of Martian Manhunter, the auspices of Zatanna's debut with the Justice League aren't terribly impressive.

And that's when bells and sirens go off.  The dastardly villain known as The Key is lose in the satellite and looking to spring other super villains from the satellite's prison.  Black Canary and Zatanna are the prison's last line of defense, something Z doesn't feel quite ready to handle.

When Elongated Man gets knocked out, the Key confronts the ladies, mocking Zatanna's attire and their attempts to stop him.

Having magically stolen The Key's keys, Zatanna doffs her cap and takes a bow.  At which point, all of the keys fall out of her top hat and clatter on the floor.  But while The Key scrambles to pick them up, Green Lantern catches up and knocks him out with a power-ring punch.

I haven't talked a whole lot about Quinones' art and I will definitely delve into it in greater detail tomorrow, but I do want to touch upon one of the things I really enjoy about his work.  Bloodspell takes place over five different eras, and Quinones delineates each time period expertly by changing up the ladies' costumes and hairstyles.

Zatanna's hair gets longer as she ages while Black Canary's hair seems longest during this satellite era.  It seems just shoulder-length during the main, contemporary part of the tale.  I think she looks a little like Elizabeth Shue in some of these scenes; not sure why.

Anyway... Dinah comes out of her reminiscence as Zatanna concludes her performance for the kids.  She can tell that something is bothering Dinah, so they do what women do to feel better.  They go shopping.

Paul Dini treats us to a rather obviously expected joke as the ladies restock on fishnet stockings, but Joe Quinones really sells it with the storefront design that feels like a Victoria's Secret sister store called Seams & Dreams.  It gives an extra umph to the fishnet gag that works wonders... but then the women are harassed by some mallrats who holler at them.

This is the obvious fishnet scene and it's pretty uncreative, even as Zatanna magically--and temporarily--transforms the men into goldfish for the pool.  I wasn't as enthusiastic about this scene, nor why Zatanna bothered with the guys at all instead of ignoring them.  But Dini and Quinones follow it up with another scene of fan-service as Dinah and Z visit a toy store with a window display of Justice League merchandize.

Yeah, that's toys for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the satellite, Doctor Fate, Plastic Man, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and... Miss Martian?  Okay.  But the real treat are the vehicles and playsets that Quinones adds to the display.  Along with the classic Batmobile are straight-up cameos by the Super Powers line such as the Supermobile, the Lex-Soar 7, Hall of Justice and Tower of Darkness.  Awesome!

After teasing each other about their merchandizing choices, Dinah and Z head to a T.G.I. Friday's-style restaurant where the wait staff are covered in flair.  Dinah shows off some of the worthless trinkets and charms that Lauren had when she died, and a photo of the tattoo on her arm.

While Black Canary looks amused by the result of Zatanna's time freeze spell, the Mistress of Magic is dead serious.  She tells Dinah that she didn't pledge a loyalty oath; Tina Spettro tricked her and the other girls into a bloodspell.  The fact that Dinah was undercover using a different name may give her some leeway in the spell's hold, but Zatanna doesn't know enough about the basic mechanics of this type of magic.

She calls on her greatest resource, summoning the ghost of her father, Giovanni Zatara, for guidance.

Zatara tells Dinah that the more lives Tina's spirit claims, the more powerful she'll grow until she's capable of possessing Black Canary.

Zatara and Zatanna agree that to break the bloodspell, Tina Spettro's spirit needs to be contained or destroyed and that means capturing her, which means catching her in the act of possessing or trying to kill another one of the girls in her gang.

After Zatara bids them luck and vanishes, Dinah and Zatanna agree to head out to Las Vegas to put an end to Tina's bloody trail of vengeance.

Continued in Part 3.


  1. Absolutely marvellous!
    Ive only just got this book - some two months after everyone else, thank you Post Office!
    And what a read it was...totally compelling to read from start to finish. Practically each page a delight.
    A cool, delightful story with a touch of the Silver Age about it, yet dark enough to keep us in suspense.... spot on I should say.
    When teenage Zatanna was on that mountain-top with Dinah, it seemed to me as if that may have been the original BC, not the modern-day heroine. So when it went to present-day and Dinah seems not to have aged, I couldn't quite understand that. Wouldn't Dinah and Zatanna be around the same age?
    ADORED that Vegas sequence...the jet-pack air sequence was right out of a Mission Impossible movie it was that good. So good in fact that at one point I actually felt as if it were real!
    Only down-spot for me was the unneccesary side trip up to the JLA satellite, and the fight with the Key. Bit silly, and Dinah's hair seemed to grow and shorten by the panel.
    I must honestly say I never once got those little Easter Eggs in the shop - that must take some research to include all those references, mightily impressed! Its made me look out for them now!
    This was a highly well-made production indeed. Even the hardback fishnets cover was nicely realised, a cute touch for BC fans.
    I also noticed no ref to BCs creators either, odd but a simple mistake I think.
    All in all a SMASHING book, 10 out of 10.

  2. Happy you finally got the book delivered--and that you enjoyed it as much as I did!!!

    The mountaintop scene at the beginning: I got the impression that Dinah was maybe fourteen or fifteen years old then... two or three years older than Zatanna. She looks bigger, er, "more developed" but a girl's body changes pretty radically in a short period of time.

    The jetpack over the Vegas skyline scene was a treat. Quinones rocked those pages; the speed and danger of that sequence jumps off the page.

    I agree that the flashbacks to Black Canary and Zatanna's fight with the Key on the satellite and the Female Furies on Apokalips weren't necessary and interrupted the flow of the story a little, but I still like those sequences because I like how Dini and Quinones depicted the ladies in different eras, and I liked seeing cameos from other League members like J'Onn and Hal.