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Book Breakdown - Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend is a Magical Mystery

Book Breakdown - Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend is a...

By Mandy Curtis Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

Welcome to Ink Spots, a quirky little corner of DC.com devoted entirely to all of our favorite Young Adult comics and fiction. In this new Book Breakdown, Mandy Curtis learns that there's more to magic acts than top hats and bunny rabbits.

Unlike her parents, Zatanna Starr doesn't enjoy the spotlight—or the art of illusion. But as the daughter of Coney Island's greatest illusionist and his stunning assistant/wife, she's long lived just outside the spotlight. And as hard as he's tried, her dad's never been able to talk her into becoming a part of the family business.

That is, until the night she attends another illusionist's show and something in her is awoken. Something that leads her to discover that some magic isn't just an illusion…

Read more about Zatanna and the true magic of Coney Island in DC's newest YA graphic novel, Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend, written by Alys Arden with art by Jacquelin de Leon. And learn more about the book in the breakdown below!


Cover Crackdown:

There's an interesting mix of elements on this cover that you might not think would work well together unless you were looking straight at it. (Which, thankfully, we are.) The neon of the title and the lights in the background are giving off a 1980s vibe while the depiction of Zatanna with her perfect purple hair looks like someone you'd see going viral on social media for her excellent goth-girl fashion sense. Altogether, it invokes a perfect summer night that will easily become a core memory.


Tell Me a Story:

Zatanna Starr is the daughter of Ezra and Lola Starr, the most famous couple in Coney Island thanks to the long-running, but never not exciting, illusion show they perform out of the Golden Elephant Hotel and Casino, a literal elephant-shaped building in Luna Park. Much to her father’s chagrin, Zatanna has little interest in the art of illusion, or magic in general, aside from a general appreciation of the shows he and her mother put on.

When Zatanna sees mirror text—or text written backward so it appears straight when read in a mirror—and realizes she can understand it fine, can even speak it, Zatanna's mind starts changing. As she begins to experiment with mirror text, which leads to discoveries about her family's past, Zatanna begins to wonder if magic isn't only in her blood because of her parents' passion for performing it.


Let’s Talk Art:

Superheroes, for the most part, are pretty much always conventionally attractive folk. They might try to "plain themselves up" to fool the masses, à la Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent (who, as an aside, is never unattractive, even at his most dweeby), but when the spandex comes out, so do the shining smiles, hair and personalities. Jacquelin de Leon's art makes everyone in this book look as good as Wonder Woman does on her best days. These people are pretty, folks. Not in an unbelievable way, but certainly in a way that would cause most sighted people to take another look or three if they walked by them on the boardwalk. It's a bit like reading a teenage soap opera—you know the ones where all the characters are played by people actually in their late 20s, far beyond any actual teenage awkwardness—but I don't mind it one bit. Especially while looking at Zatanna's hair, which is perfect in every panel, even when she's just rolled out of bed.


Dialog Discussion:

I'm not from Coney Island, nor have I ever been to the end of the D/F/Q line, so some of the language in this book felt a little like a foreign one I don't know how to speak. But in a good, intriguing way that kept me reading in the hopes I'd eventually find more context. (I did know about Coney Island's famed Mermaid Parade, though. I'd love to experience that in person someday!) Alys Arden definitely knows how to entice readers with hints of things that will be further explained, and the dialog between the characters in the book felt realistic—so much so that I felt a little voyeuristic reading some of the more private conversations, specifically those between Zatanna and her longtime love, Alexei.


Voted Most Likely:

In the DC High yearbook, Zatanna would certainly be voted most likely to become rich and famous as a social media influencer. I can easily picture Zatanna's Instagram page, filled with behind-the-scenes reels of her parents' performances and sponsored partner posts with her preferred hair color brand. (Have I mentioned her perfect hair? I might be a tad envious.) But she'd never come across as fake, and she'd make an effort to reply, genuinely, to as many comments as she could.


Favorite Teen Titan:

With fashion sense like hers, and her magical powers, am I taking the easy way out by saying that Zatanna's favorite Teen Titan would obviously be Raven? I can see them sharing clothes and spells and being the absolute best of goth-girl friends.


Perfect Food Pairing:

There's little Zatanna loves more than cotton candy, and the various times she eats it throughout the book had me craving spun sugar worse than I ever had before. But the Coney Island setting also had me salivating at the thought of a hot dog. Basically, anything you can get at a carnival that is more delicious than anything has a right to be. Corn dogs! Funnel cakes! Fried everything! The worse for you, the better.
 

Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Alys Arden and Jacquelin de Leon is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.

When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.