Judging by the type of media we all consume, magic is something people want to believe in. Just look at the success of Harry Potter, which is probably a connection most will make with the new series from DC Vertigo called Books of Magic, a story about a London teenager in high school attempting to learn the ways of magic not only because he wants to, but because he’s destined to become the greatest magician in the universe. Just like in high school, no pressure.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Timothy Hunter may be destined to become the most powerful magician in the universe, but he’s still a London teenager, and having magical abilities complicates things more than it helps. It’s not like he can use magic to pass his exams, stop being bullied or convince his cute friend to date him. And while Tim’s trying to live his life, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his power will eventually corrupt him into becoming a merciless mage. Oh, and those are the good guys. Luckily, his new substitute teacher is more than she appears, and may be able to help Tim discover the mystery behind the Books of Magic…
Why does this matter?
I was a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and John Bolton’s early ’90s miniseries by the same name, due to its realistic looking art and unique take on magic in the world. It’s a story many can relate to as it captures the confusion and unsure nature of our youth, not really knowing what we’ll be or if we can match the expectations set up for us by others. Kat Howard and Tom Fowler headline this new series which aims do the original justice.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
And justice it does. as this first issue is an excellent first issue in general, but also a great story by itself. It opens with Timothy Hunter being asked if he wants to learn magic as if pressured like many of us are at that high school age where parents and family expect the world of you. As far as first issues go this issue stands out as it not only lays out the pressures on our hero but also does a good job giving us a taste of the world he lives in. He’s not crazy, but instead is actually being influenced to push himself to become the greatest magician ever. He still gets bullied, still has to deal with the loss of his mother, and still must deal with his self-doubt. It’s a relatable tale that fans of young adult stories should very much enjoy.
Aside from being a high school story, it’s also a story about a character whom writer Kat Howard captures well. We only get brief moments with some, and more time with others, but you instantly feel a connection to these figures in Timothy’s life. As far as the magic in this first issue, it holds back on giving us too much. It’s a grounded story with some magic, but it only reveals itself in subtle ways to make it feel, well, magical.
The art by Tom Fowler lives up to the original and then some. The opening pages, using some mixed media techniques, do a great job to capture the reality-bending nature of magic. The opening page uses some classic storybook framing devices to set the tone beautifully, which helps set the undertones of magic while the narrative pushes into more conventional high school scenes. The art in these high school scenes is rendered in a realistic way, particularly Timothy’s face which has that gaunt look that suits his castout nerdy nature. Jordan Boyd’s colors add to the realism quite nicely. Fowler also captures the loner nature of Timothy who has friends looking out for him, but he’s also lonely in his social life and familiar life too. The book also ends on a hauntingly well done final page that uses the background and foreground very well enhancing the tension of the moment.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The only thing that threw me off with this issue is how Timothy’s teacher seems to know all about magic and yet Timothy seems surprised by some magic that was pulled off. Even though The Sandman Universe #1 introduces this teacher figure as in the know, it’s a bit lost on the reader here. We also don’t really understand what her stake is in fostering Timothy’s magic and you’re left not knowing if she’s good or bad. That’s an okay feeling to have if on purpose, but it’s done in a way here where it’s not certain one way or the other.
Is it good?
A great first issue that I can’t wait to delve back into with issue #2. If you’re a lover of magic in fiction or magic in real life, you must read Books of Magic. You’ll be transported into this strange and dangerous world and won’t want to leave.