How Young Justice: Phantoms Is Delivering The Superhero Story That Zatanna Deserves

young justice phantoms zatanna
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Spoilers ahead for the ninth episode of Young Justice: Phantoms, called “Odnu!”

Young Justice is doing things differently for its fourth season, called Phantoms. The now-HBO Max streaming series (formerly of DC Universe) is breaking the 26-episode season down into separate multi-episode arcs centered on the heroes who starred back in Season 1, with the first following M’gann on Mars and the second following Artemis in the wake of tragedy. Now, the story has shifted to center on Zatanna, who debuted in Season 1 but hasn’t received nearly as much focus as most of the other members of the early team. The show is one episode into her four-part arc, and I think it’s already safe to say that she’s finally getting the superhero story she deserves. 

Read on for what’s happening with her Phantoms arc so far, and why it’s something that fans of both the show and the DC Comics character should be excited about. 

Zatanna's Battle With Klarion Is Only The Beginning

Of course, Zatanna herself probably wouldn’t want this storyline if she had any choice in the matter! “Odnu!” – which is “Undo!” backwards in a nod to how she casts spells – turned Zatanna's evening of teaching a trio of young proteges into something nightmarish after a magical pulse put them on the trail of a new villain so bad that Klarion was more than a little dismayed at her arrival, and not just because her arrival meant that he had to abandon his plan to murder Zatanna, Khalid, Mary Bromfield, and Thirteen. 

Of course, it didn’t just take Klarion’s reaction to the new baddie for it to become clear that she’s not to be trifled with. Although she takes on the form of a young girl in a school uniform, one of her first moves upon arriving on Earth was to have a man killed and then pull him apart to see how the human body works. 

Zatanna had her hands full with Klarion, and is bound to be in over her head with this newcomer… at first. Zatanna is smart and resourceful as well as powerful in magic, so if anybody could make the most of this impossible situation, it’s Zatanna. And this four-part arc will showcase magic in one big epic story in a way that Young Justice hasn’t before, so there’s a lot to be excited about. 

Why Zatanna Deserves This Storyline

Zatanna was part of the team in Season 1, but not really a major character compared to Dick, Wally, Kaldur, Conner, M’gann, and Artemis, and she moved on to the Justice League by the time Season 2 picked up with the five-year time jump. She hasn’t gotten to do much in the spotlight on Young Justice, which has meant that magic hasn’t played a huge role in the series aside from the occasional episode here and there. 

“Odnu!” was just one episode, and it already shed more light on what kind of person Zatanna is, the relationships she has built, what kind of powers she has, and how she uses them. She’s not just part of an ensemble or in the background, and her big multi-part magic storyline is uncharted territory for this show in such a good way. This arc is centered on a familiar character, but not one who has been explored in-depth before compared to others, and with a brand new story to boot. 

Additionally, all signs point toward the format of Season 4 serving Zatanna well to keep her as the central hero of the storyline. One element of Season 3 that didn’t work all that well for me was the sheer number of new characters crowding the show and preventing much in the way of character focus for returning favorites. This is a character-heavy season that has managed to incorporate background heroes better than in Season 3 without pulling focus from the mains, and that has been a good thing in my book. The show is trying to defy expectations this season, after all!

Admittedly, we’re only one episode into Zatanna’s storyline, but it got off to such a strong start that I can’t imagine it going off the rails. While it remains to be seen if Garfield continues to get screen time and how much focus will be on Vandal Savage, I’m looking forward to it, even though Zatanna’s arc coming third means waiting that much longer to check in with Kaldur or see the new Nightwing suit in action!

See what happens next with Zatanna’s story with new episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms releasing on Thursdays on HBO Max (opens in new tab). The 2021 TV season is very nearly at an end, but you can find out what to expect in the new year with our 2022 winter and spring premiere schedule. Young Justice will return for its second half of Season 4 in the new year, although that date has not yet been confirmed. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.