mark monday's Reviews > The Books of Magic

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman
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Jan 01, 12

bookshelves: comikon

the artwork in The Books of Magic is splendid, a real treat. John Bolton, Scott Hampton, and Paul Johnson create shadowy, smearily impressionistic, layered, slowly shifting, ambiguously dream-like imagery that throws everything into question, including the narrative itself. classic fairy tale illustrator Charles Vess brings his own unique and enchanting style to his piece; the results are quite different (reminscent of the stylized, now-retro illustrations in old children's books like The Wizard of Oz), but are also suberb - Vess is a perfect artist for the third book's journey into Faerie.

sadly enough, the art was the most arresting thing about this first volume (initially a 4-part miniseries) of The Books of Magic. the series is all about young Tim Hunter's introduction to and adventures in The Dread World of Magick. Tim himself is a surprisingly unappealing protagonist - not only drawn as a homely, weaselly lad, but given dialogue that is often wearyingly ignorant or snarky. Tim Hunter is not really the big issue i have with this collection (although he is a small part of it - he's just not an enjoyable traveling companion)... it is the narrative itself. the writing is fine, Gaiman is a masterful writer and so, page by page, it is as polished as one would expect. but the story pretty much amounts to a guidebook to DC's magical realms and wide range of magically-powered folks. for a comic book nerd like myself, reading what is essentially a beautifully illustrated List of People & Things is a fun time. it certainly had me combing my memory and wikipedia to figure out the backstories and eventual fates of all the characters. but coming from the mind of the guy who wrote Sandman (an all-time favorite and the one long-running comic book series that i would recommend to anyone), i can't help but feel really disappointed. The Books of Magic is lacking in both resonance and imagination. fun but forgettable.

along the way, Tim meets Baba Yaga and Titania and members of Gaiman's own pantheon, The Endless. he sees glimpses of the Beginning of Time, Faerie Land, Skartaris, Gemworld (an odd choice), the 30th century future of the Legion of Super-heroes and Sorceror's World, the various Ends of Time. he is guided by The Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult (and his other half, Rose Psychic), John Constantine, Mister E, and Zatanna (who makes the extremely dippy blunder of taking Tim to a Halloween gathering of Magic Super Villains - oh, Zatanna, how typical), and he encounters Zatanna's father Zatara and Sargon the Sorcerer (both killed off by Alan Moore during Crisis on Infinite Earths), Jim Corrigon/ The Spectre, Jason Blood/ The Demon, Boston Brand/ Deadman, Kent Nelson/ Doctor Fate (who we find has a rather appalling fate in store for himself at the end of time), Madame Xanadu, Baron Winter, Tala, The Wizard, Tannarak, Felix Faust, and the ever-annoying Doctor 13 (happily killed off by Grant Morrison during Seven Soldiers of Victory). best of all - for me at least - was a glimpse into the possible far-future and a tiny little bit in the corner of one panel there, showing Klarion the Witchboy kicking The Spectre's ass in a magic battle. i always knew Klarion could take down Spectre if he put his mind to it!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Have never read any of these books so it is a totally unknown world to me. If someone was going to just dip his toe in to get a sense of the world of comic book which is a good one to experience?

mark monday i would say start with the Sandman books by Neil Gaiman. my favorite!

message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark cheers. Will look them out

mark monday Gaiman is great, but it felt like it took all of 10 minutes to conceive this one. or as long as it would take a person to draw up a list of DC's supernatural characters.

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