Writer J. M. DeMatteis and guest artist Tom Derenick craft a solid solo journey in Justice League Dark #35 as the issue focuses on Zatanna in a mysterious world.
Sucked through a vortex and separated from the rest of the Justice League Dark, Zatanna finds herself in a world that is strangely familiar… if it wasn’t for the giant rhyming monsters. Attacked by a creature known as a Mome-Rath, Zatanna is rescued by a figure she never thought she’d see again: her father, Zatara.
Zatanna is rightfully bewildered and hides her identity as her father, still as young as when she last saw him invites her into his home, her home, where her mother and the younger Zatanna wait. Confused, Zatanna quickly adopts the cover of Dorothy and proceeds to interact with her family of old. Zatara recognizes that Zatanna is a magician, and takes her with him as he explains that the world they’re in is a land without time, where magic permeates throughout so that spells are not necessary.
Zatanna and Zatara eventually team up to battle the Mome-Raths, dinosaur-like creatures, that begin to appear more and more familiar to Zatanna as the battle ensues. The issue ends on a somber note, and features an epilogue with some of the other members of the Justice League Dark, suggesting that subsequent issues will be less singularly focused.
J. M. DeMatteis’ script for Justice League Dark #35 is fantastic. This is a solo story with quite a bit of heart, and it’s touching to see Zatanna reunited with her father. The ending to the issue could have felt cheap, but DeMatteis does a solid job with building up to it, and so the ending feels honest. The L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll references are a nice touch to the story. In addition to DeMatteis’ script, guest artist Tom Derenick’s pencils do a wonderful job with the story. The lines are lively and energetic during the action, and equally subtle and detailed during the story’s emotional beats. The designs for the Mome-Raths are visually interesting, and fit well with the story’s needs.
Justice League Dark #35 doesn’t have any real flaws to it. Yes, it truthfully is a Zatanna story, and not one of the titular team, but it’s so well crafted that it’s hard to care. If anything, the epilogue with the other characters feels a bit out of place. If there was one decision I questioned, it is the use of the World Trade Center in a panel. The idea behind it is that anything is possible in this world Zatanna has found herself in. With magic everywhere, Zatara was able to bend reality to his will, but the use of the World Trade Center to illustrate this gave me pause. However, this is a very small nitpick and many readers may not notice.
Justice League Dark #35 is a great entry in the series. The father-daughter dynamic between Zatanna and Zatara is well done and the artwork enhances the script at every turn. This comic is highly recommended, especially for fans of Zatanna.