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Alternative Comics Beat: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter


Black Canary and Zatanna are two of my favorite superheroines. Even before reading this new original graphic novel by Paul Dini, I would have listed them in my top ten or twenty favorite superheroes. Not just including female characters, but heroes of both genders. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of superheroes in the Marvel and DC cannon.


Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell is an OGN that tells a new origin story for the friendship that the two heroes share and pits them against the spirit of a powerful witch that Canary encountered a year before. Now a bloodspell threatens Canary’s life, and Zatanna Zatarra is the only magician in the DCU powerful enough to step in and tango with the powerful poltergeist.

This OGN is written by Paul Dini and drawn by Joe Quinones. Dini is one of my favorite DC Comics writers, and I’ve been enjoying his work since my early days watching Batman: The Animated Series. Quinones has a fantastic art style that captures the classic feel of the characters and makes every page a delight. Reading these characters on the page feels like that same lightning in a bottle has been captured and put in panels as the two characters share adventure and danger together against a powerful foe. And the combination of Dini and Quinones really drives that home.

Just look at some of the cover concepts that Quinones threw up on his blog a while back:


Fantastic stuff.

Wait… Why is this an alternative from the norm?

I get this quite a bit when I pick a Marvel or DC book for the Alternative Comics Beat. While I did start this article with the intent of recommending books that were outside the normal superhero fare, sometimes there are gems that the general public might overlook. That’s when the capes and masks take a step back into the Alt Beat spotlight and convince me that they have to be read by people who enjoy this column.

The DC Universe before The New 52

I hate to be one of those guys, but I do miss the old DC Universe. Not that it was the “original” version of the shared space for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and even the characters in this OGN. But I do miss the history that The New 52 doesn’t provide and the legacy that those versions of the characters had.

Dini’s story takes me back to the place I grew up reading about characters like Canary and Zatanna, and while I admit I’m a nostalgia nut I still think that there’s gold to be mined from that era. I’m just hoping this brings more out-of-continuity stories into the spotlight.

Who would enjoy this OGN?

Readers who love classic DC Universe stories that are a little more on the lighthearted side will love this OGN. It has a lot of charm that the Bruce Timm animated shows have, but with a little more edge and sassy moments that Dini gives the heroines in order to stretch and be themselves. It gives the characters the chance to shine without the confines of a twenty minute episode. If continuity and issue numbers aren’t your thing, then this tale of magic, action, and intrigue is right up your alley.

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

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Review: Hellblazer #296

John Constantine has been investigating a series of black magic murders. Each victim is killed, has his organs ripped out, and has words written above him or her on the wall in their blood. All of which points to Constantine.

Constantine investigation has brought him into the home of his estranged nephew, Finn. As Constantine trains Finn in the mystical arts, the mysterious threat reveals itself. But is Constantine ready for the amount of magic this new foe possesses?

Peter Milligan’s run on Hellblazer is continuing to be very entertaining. He mixes mystery, detective work, magic, and con-artist charm into every issue. Constantine feels genuine in each panel and can make readers laugh with the slightest bit of dialogue.

Giuseppe Camuncoli did the layouts for this issue and Stefano Landini did the finishes. The artwork continues the current character style, which has a very cartoon-like tone. It works well with the mixture of humor and horror, and it gives characters a chance to really emote when they need to.

Vertigo Comics has been publishing Hellblazer for decades. It’s good to know that fans and new readers can rest assured that it will continue to deliver some of the best characters and stories in comics.

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Review: Hellblazer #293

John Constantine is no stranger to breaking promises. On his last trip to Hell, Constantine promised his sister Cheryl that he’d try to find her long lost son, all while crossing his fingers. He had no intention of looking for the lost member of the Constantine bloodline, but now that grizzly murders with black magic are filling the sewers of the city, Constantine thinks that his nephew might be looking for him instead.

Hellblazer is one of Vertigo’s longest running series and for good reason. Peter Milligan writes Constantine the same way Jamie Delano or Garth Ennis wrote him – as a crime noir character deep in the occult. The dynamic with Constantine and his wife Epiphany has been playing out really well, and it’s satisfying to see him with someone he can confide to in every issue.

How long she’ll last is another story, since it’s common knowledge that anyone close to Constantine doesn’t last very long.

Giuseppe Camuncoli has a very expressive style that fits Hellblazer and Constantine’s world while still having an impressive cartoon element. The eyes and expressions of characters are what really sell each panel. In every moment where Constantine is angry, smiling, or ready to vomit, is felt by the reader through the artwork.

Most audiences are only familiar with the film version of the character in Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves. While it’s not a horrible movie, it’s definitely not a faithful adaptation of the character or the Hellblazer franchise. If you love detective stories and urban occult or horror, this series is the go to material for any fan.

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