With finals week looming, the Rose Psychic rushes to stop one of her students from turning into the Malevolence. Zatanna’s soul hangs in the balance after her romantic dalliance with Sebastian Faust, and Pia Morales learns more about the nature of her powers.
MYSTIK U: Book 3
Author: Alisa Kwitney
Artist: Mike Norton
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco
Associate Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need To Know:
Rose Psychic, Mr. E, Madame Xanadu, Dr. Occult, and the rest of the staff of Mystik U are trying to stop one of their students from turning into an evil entity known as the Malevolence. Meanwhile, Sebastian Faust has inadvertently killed Zatanna while sharing a romantic moment with her, and the rest of the students are preparing for the end of term finals.
What You Will Find Out:
Rose Psychic’s nightmares about the latest batch of freshman students at Mystik U continues, but unlike last time when she ceded control of the body they share to Dr. Occult, this time, Dr. Occult forcibly seizes control and locks her within his psyche.
Meanwhile, outside the House of Secrets, Enchantress, and Sargon the Sorcerer are trying to find a way in so that they can save Zatanna. Because the House of Secrets is more than a mere structure of wood and brick, there’s no magical way for them to get in, so they have to plead with the house until it grants them entrance. They interrupt Dr. Occult and Mr. E, who are in the middle of a spell, and fill them in on what happened.
As acting dean of the school – and because Rose Psychic is currently indisposed because of him – he needs to take action, so he teleports himself and the students to the dorm, where Sebastian, Plop, and Pia wait with Zatanna’s body. Dr. Occult studies Zatanna for a moment concludes that she’s dead, and starts to get ready to restrain him. Pia, who doesn’t believe Dr. Occult, decides to give a second opinion by looking over Zatanna. Sensing a spark of energy within Zatanna, she uses her powers to revive her friend, though Zatanna doesn’t quite seem herself.
Still, with Zatanna alive again, Dr. Occult doesn’t need to expel Sebastian or anything, and so he places Sebastian on a provisional enrollment status instead. Once he leaves, the group crowds around Zatanna, who is having some trouble remembering things. Sebastian, who doesn’t believe in miracles, thinks that something is odd, but everyone else seems too focused on Zatanna’s miraculous return to really question anything. While they talk to Zatanna, Plop sneaks away…
…and sneaks into the butler’s pantry at the House of Secrets, where Cain and Abel are making dessert for the faculty. Or trying to, at least. It’s pretty much a failure, but Plop sneaks into a bowl and pretends to be pudding, which is promptly ingested by much of the staff as they discuss what must be done about the Malevolence. The only ones who don’t ingest the Plop pudding are Madame Xanadu, who is in the midst of an argument with Dr. Occult over what needs to be done to stop the Malevolence, and Mr. E, who is fasting in preparation of battle.
Madame Xanadu leaves the teachers and goes to her chambers, where she’s met by a vision of Rose Psychic in a mirror. Together, they plot to take action against Dr. Occult, who refuses to listen to reason where the Malevolence is concerned.
While they plot, Pia is alone at a graveyard, when Sebastian comes to talk to her about the truth of her powers – that she’s a necromancer, not a healer. Pia brushes this off at first and then gets upset because she feels as though Sebastian is trying to make her powers sound more ghoulish than they are, or that he’s upset about Zatanna seemingly being over her feelings for him since Pia healed her. Sebastian explains that their connection is gone because she’s different, and Pia tries to defend her actions against Sebastian, not realizing quite how dangerous her powers are. Sebastian, tired of trying to reason with her, whips off his glasses locks eyes with Pia, using his own infernal powers to show her the truth of her abilities, and how easy it would be to use them to do awful things with. Having shown Pia that she can raise and control the dead and that she has a similar power over Zatanna – Sebastian tells Pia that she has to find a way to free Zatanna from that control, otherwise, things won’t end well for either of them.
Back in the House of Secrets, Madame Xanadu checks in with Dr. Occult and in between playfully flirting with him, tells him that she thinks she may have crafted a spell to defeat the Malevolence. Intrigued, Dr. Occult follows Madame Xanadu to the attic, where she kisses him after a little more flirting. This isn’t a kiss of passion, though. Instead, Madame Xanadu bites Dr. Occult’s lip and uses his blood and saliva to create a portal in a mirror for Rose Psychic to step through. Rose and Xanadu trap Dr. Occult in the mirror, though he warns them that their plan won’t do much at this point. The students’ final exams have begun, and they’re spellbound so that no one can meddle in them. If all goes to plan, one of the three tasks will destroy the malevolent student.
The students suddenly find themselves in the ninth circle of Hell, still dressed in their nightclothes. Well, all except for Sebastian, who is nude and hastily trying to cover himself up with a towel. They try to figure out what they need to do for this task, searching the area around them, but nothing’s evident right away. Plop, who suddenly appears as if from nowhere, suggests that he can use his body to get to places the others can’t. When Pia asks him where he was, he lies and says he was studying. Sebastian realizes where they are soon enough though – they’re in the realm of Nebiros, Sebastian’s guardian demon, the being responsible for buying Sebastian’s soul and bestowing upon him the powers that Sebastian’s father Felix wanted.
After a bit of dramatic dialogue between Nebiros and Sebastian, Nebiros reveals that he’s there to help them. He fills them in on Dr. Occult’s plot to get rid of the student with the power to turn evil by killing them. Pia suggests that the way around this is for her to kill whoever is going to turn into the Malevolence and then bring them back with her necromancy, though Sebastian convinces her that this isn’t the best idea. Sebastian then suggests that, since there’s six of them there, if they each sign away a sixth of their mortal lifespan to Nebiros, he’d have the mortal life of a full person. Nebiros agrees to this plan and produces a contract, which Zatanna cannot sign because her soul is not her own. Everyone else signs for themselves, while Pia signs for herself and for Zatanna – with the caveat that the remaining five-sixths of her lifespan are returned to Zatanna, thereby freeing her from the mystical connection between them. Nebiros is impressed – apparently, Pia is as tricksy as her grandmother, who Nebiros seems to know, but instead of elaborating on that, he transports them to outside the gates of Mystik U.
There, they are visited by dark shadows that tease them and warn them, and each of these goes after one of the students, preying on their insecurities. Zatanna’s, in particular, seems like a dark ghost of her father Zatara. The visions converge on Pia who angrily uses her powers to destroy them. The gates to the school open and the students walk into the dining hall, where a feast is in session.
Something seems suspicious about the feast, though, and so Plop takes Sargon’s ruby and drops it into a goblet of liquid. The gem starts to detect the presence of a spell, and they realize they’re not in the dining hall at all, but instead inside of an elaborate illusion. All of the students but Plop transform into animals. Plop uses Sargon’s ruby again to reveal whoever is hidden, and Mr. E appears, attacking Plop and beheading him. Plop falls but starts bubbling, and something rises out of its dead remains – the Malevolence, plucking Sargon’s ruby out of the goo and placing it on her head. Turns out, the Malevolence is the adult version of Pia, turned powerful and evil. She uses her powers on Mr. E, aging him quickly and then departing with the still-transformed students to Mystik U.
Rose and Madame Xanadu are waiting for the Malevolence, and the confront her as the students transform back into themselves. Pia quickly realizes what happened and who the Malevolence is. As the students gain their bearings, the Malevolence faces off against Xanadu and Rose, trapping them in a prison of bones while explaining that she knows how Rose retroactively changed the world by creating Mystik U when things had gone bad in the future. The Malevolence then starts to win Pia over to her side, but Rose and the students rally together and launch an attack on the Malevolence. Sargon summons his ruby back so that he can fight with the others, but before they can do much, the Malevolence uses her powers to try and kill them so that she can resurrect them as her own puppets. Realizing that this isn’t what she wants, Pia uses her powers against the Malevolence and destroys her.
Rose Psychic thanks Pia for saving them and promises her that she’s not expelled, but that they do need to make sure that the faculty is entirely dezombified, given that many of them had ingested Plop as dessert, giving the Malevolence control over them.
A week later, finals are over and the students are getting ready to go home for break. Sargon’s mother is shocked at how much weight he’s lost, and Enchantress has plans of her own for break, though she doesn’t say what, exactly. Pia is going to find out more about her family history, after what Nebiros said about her grandmother. Zatanna and Sebastian, meanwhile, are going to spend the break looking for her father…
What Just Happened?:
Well, for starters, the most obvious suspect did end up being the Malevolence. I don’t mean Plop specifically, though he was borne of Pia’s own powers way back in the first issue, so he’s definitely connected. Out of the main characters that the series had introduced – Zatanna, Sebastian Faust, Sargon the Sorcerer, Enchantress – Pia and Plop were the only two who were newcomers to the series, so it was a very good bet that they were going to turn out to be at least tied to the mysterious Malevolence somehow. Despite that, the reveal of the Malevolence is a good one, though it would have been nice to see more of the Malevolence in action, given how much build-up was given to the character. She’s appropriately creepy and evil enough – theatrical in just the right way.
Alisa Kwitney has put the students through hell and back in this series – literally – but she’s really done it quite well. She successfully was able to give the students individual voices, and each one of them was able to walk away at the end with a little bit of character development, which isn’t always easy with a cast this size. Her command over writing the teachers – Madame Xanadu especially – is remarkable. Madame Xanadu has many times been written as the sort of person who will use her wiles to get what she needs in terms of power – her own origin with Merlin leads back to that – and she’s wonderfully in character here. The relationship between Zatanna and Sebastian Faust is also very well-written, and if anyone had suggested beforehand that this would be a relationship I wanted more of, I would have laughed, but Kwitney really understands these two characters and knows how to play them off of each other. The same can be said for the relationship between Enchantress and Sargon as well as the complicated relationship that Rose Psychic and Dr. Occult share between them.
After having spent two issues being the viewpoint character, Kwitney wisely allows Zatanna to step aside Sebastian and Pia to take center stage in this issue. By now we’ve been in this world enough that we don’t need Zatanna to be the viewpoint character into Mystik U, and it allows Sebastian and Pia to shine. Sebastian continues to somehow be the voice of a reason in this universe, knowing magic on a more intimate scale than any of the students, and Pia’s journey into realizing who she is and what she can do is well done. The characters never delve into melodrama, which can sometimes be expected of mystical settings, given the theatricality of it all.
Mike Norton continues to prove that he’s one of the most consistently capable artists in the industry, and he has a real knack for drawing the mystical side of the DCU. His Nebiros is drawn just creepy enough to instill the reader with a sense of distrust, but affable enough to see why he would be the better choice – out of all possible demons – to be Sebastian’s guardian. The design of Pia as the Malevolence is great – creepy in an elegant way that really works for the character. It’s a timeless look that won’t make her seem out of place whenever she pops up again, which isn’t always the easiest task. He’s wonderful at character expressions and giving characters distinct faces and specific body language. It’s beautiful, detailed work. Jordie Bellaire is easily one of the best colorists in the industry, and this issue shows exactly why. She’s absolutely incredible at mixing the mundane with the fantastical, and she definitely knows how to set a mood.
If there’s one complaint about this issue, it’s that it feels as though everything was resolved too quickly and perhaps a bit too easily. The Malevolence was a threat that hung over the whole series – indeed she was the reason why Rose Psychic and Zatanna reset time in the first place – but at the end, we didn’t really get that much of her, and everything felt unfortunately rushed. Of course, this also may simply be the fact that I wanted to spend much more time in this world and in the company of these characters, and three prestige format issues nearly wasn’t enough for a world as rich and compelling as this.
It does seem as though the timeline that was changed at the very beginning of the book won’t be set back, though, and this is the new status quo, considering that life continues on after the Malevolence has been defeated. There are a few choice sequel hooks left at the end of the series – especially Zatanna and Sebastian speeding off on his motorcycle to try and find Zatanna’s father. If Kwitney has a few more stories in her for this world – and it seems as though she might – and if Mike Norton is willing to revisit this world again, I would love to see them team up again for a sequel miniseries or even an ongoing series where this universe is fleshed out even more. The magical side of the DCU has always been compelling, but it’s rarely been as well-defined as it is here, with its different forms of magic and the people who manipulate that mystical force.
Final Thoughts: This final issue of Mystik U is a well-written ride, even as it feels a little rushed at the end. Alisa Kwitney continues to show her knack for writing smart, strong, capable characters, and though it’s the end, for now, this is definitely a universe worth revisiting again. If you’re a fan of the mystical side of the DCU, this is well-worth a read.
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