DC’s magic-based characters have had a tough time fitting in to the Rebirth initiative. Outside of a few miniseries and, for Zatanna at least, a couple of appearances in Detective Comics, DC has largely ignored the more colorful cast of their universe. That all changed with Mystik U, a 4-part prestige format miniseries by novelist Alisa Kwitney (Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold, Sandman: King of Dreams) and artist Mike Norton (Battlepug, Lil’ Donnie), who take the diverse lot of characters to an all new stomping ground – college.
The series takes pace in a possible past where Zatanna, Enchantress, Felix Faust, Sargon the Sorcerer, and new character Pia Morales are all whisked away by Rose Psychic and Doctor Occult to attend freshman year at a college for magic users when its revealed that one of them will become The Malevolence, a villain with world ending powers. More than being a simple story about a villain though, Mystik U details the journey one takes on their way to becoming the bad guy and the choices they make along the way.
Nowhere is that more prominent than in Zatanna’s character arc, who starts off the story in her father Zatara’s magic show when her magic goes awry, trapping her father in another dimension. Magic may be in Zatanna’s blood, but she suddenly finds herself at Mystik U surrounded by magicians who rely on talent rather than genetics, and it begins to affect her ability to use magic at all.
Experimentation is a common theme in all aspects of college life, and Mystik U refreshingly doesn’t shy away from that fact. Speaking with Newsarama, writer Alisa Kwitney said:
The first year of college is a kind of theater where people improvise themselves – sometimes they change their names, and they might adopt a whole new way of dressing along with a new passion. It’s also a place where you might discover that, after years of being on the bottom of the food chain in high school, there are people who recognize your talents. But the opposite can also occur – you realize that you’re no longer the best in the class at something. Mystik U is very much a story of freshman orientation for Zatanna and the others, but on magickal steroids.
Zatanna may take center stage on the book, but the other characters are anything but background fodder. Pia Morales, a character introduced in the book, struggles to adapt to a world of close knit contact and powers seemingly beyond her own, while Faust struggles with the fact that his powers stem from his father selling his soul. Sargon, a golden age sorcerer who uses the mystical Ruby of Life has perhaps the biggest change in the book, as his look has been updated to be more culturally appropriate to his powers.
The result is a culturally diverse, relevant take on a very human subject, albeit with some very superhuman personalities. We see superheroes doing regular things, like Zatanna and Faust’s awkward romantic entanglement, Enchantress and her alter-ego June Moone in a hilarious love triangle with Sargon, and Pia Morales’ struggle to fit in to an unknown world without sacrificing her dignity and headstrong values.
With all that said about Mystik U, the fact that the book retains a very pulp superhero comic feel at all is impressive. Despite all the relevance and weight of some of the topics in Mystik U, I never felt as if I was outside of the DC Universe and Norton’s art really shines in that respect.
The book is now halfway through its four book run, and as always good things will eventually come to an end. The Malevolence will rear its head and will (hopefully) be defeated and the experience will most likely be built upon in the larger DCU when the characters show up, but in the mean time I’m just enjoying freshman year.
Mystik U #3 is available on 28 March 2018.
Image Credits: DC Comics