Another classic Vertigo Comics series returned this week as part of the publisher’s Sandman Universe line of comics: The Books of Magic. This series began in 1990 as a four-issue miniseries penned by Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman, and drawn by John Bolton. Together they introduced readers everywhere to Timothy Hunter, a British teenager who was just learning of his destiny to become the greatest magician in the world. In addition to building a new legend within the hallowed history of DC Comics, the mini also provided a flashpoint to reintroduce and remind readers of many of the great magical characters from the Golden Age of comics forward.
After the original miniseries, the story continued in an ongoing comic book written and drawn by an array of talent, pulling Timothy Hunter ever closer to his destiny as he met new companions and learned more about the world of magic. With some small exceptions though, he has been largely absent from comics since that series ended in 2000, which makes the debut of a new The Books of Magic series this past week all the more exciting.
Timothy Hunter is an excellent character at the center of an equally excellent concept, and, if you needed any more, we have eight reasons to check out the newest volume of The Books of Magic as soon as possible.
The original four-issue miniseries that introduced Timothy Hunter has stood the test of time as well as almost any comic from its era, and the new series reads as if it starts very soon after the end of that first story. While reading the original is not required, it does provide an accessible and enjoyable prologue to a new introduction that also manages to stand entirely on its own. One of the biggest issues facing the new Sandman Universe has been the complexity and continuity that looms over each new series, and The Books of Magic has managed to handle this perfectly with a classic and new starting point that functions extraordinarily well.
The Books of Magic features a premise that ensures a story that runs as long as readers or creators might want it go as well. While any new reader has a maximum of five issues to check out, and only one that is required, they are only meeting Timothy Hunter at the start of an exceptionally long journey. In the new issue, he’s a novice to the world of magic, requiring a lot of learning and growing up to fulfill his role as Earth’s greatest magician. While a lot can happen over the years, The Books of Magic is one series that shouldn’t run out of steam anytime soon.
In addition to its own core mythology, The Books of Magic also builds upon the diverse collection of characters and stories within DC Comics that are connected to magic. The current incarnation of Justice League Dark has focused primarily on a team filled with less-than-expected characters, with Detective Chimp and Zatanna being the two big exceptions. That leaves a lot of magicians, from the big guns like Nabu to the skirmishers like Ragman, left looking for a series to visit. The Books of Magic is a perfect home to feature many fascinating characters from throughout DC Comics’ history.
Being part of the Sandman Universe line also provides The Books of Magic with a modicum of protection from the regular events and crossovers that wreak havoc on an ongoing series in superhero comics. While crossovers can be a lot of fun, they also have a tendency to detract from ongoing narratives and lead to unnecessary mix-ups in normally consistent creative teams. Whatever story the creators behind The Books of Magic want to tell, it’s likely they will get to do so with minimal interference from the flavor of the week threatening to destroy the multiverse yet again.
If you don’t already know the name Tom Fowler, you won’t forget it after reading The Books of Magic #1. He provides a style and visual sensibility in comics today without any clear parallel, capable of conceiving brilliant layouts and designs for any sort of comics genre that he approaches. Fowler is a perfect fit for the series as well, managing to capture both the angst and drama of Timothy Hunter’s mundane life as a British teen, as well as the colorful and eccentric possibilities that come with any magical comic book.
Kat Howard is a novelist who may be new to comics, but is no stranger to working with magic and existing stories. She previously reworked characters from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz stories in an anthology and has a list of short stories and novels to her name that establish some impressive fantasy bona fides. Both Roses and Rot and An Unkindness of Magicians have been very well received and showcased a rising star who has been pushed as someone to watch by one co-creator of The Books of Magic, Neil Gaiman, himself.
The story of a young wizard who learns about an incredible prophecy filled with lurking dangers and future power tied into a world he never even imagined might exist certainly sounds familiar. Timothy Hunter premiered seven years before another adolescent wizard made waves in 1997 though, and provides an attitude and approach to magic that is entirely his own. Hunter’s story feels every bit as essential to the adolescent experience and the versatility of magic, and it’s one that deserves to be continued, no matter what comparisons might be made.
Timothy Hunter is the star of The Books of Magic, but he’s far from being alone. As the new series introduces new characters and threats, it’s already pulling on the immense tapestry that is DC Comics, as well. Over almost an entire century, this comics publisher has built a world filled with literal and metaphorical magic, all of which is now at the disposal of the storytellers in this series. It provides limitless opportunities for Timothy Hunter to grow as a magician and explore new worlds. With Hunter as the heart of the series and all of DC Comics him surrounding him, The Books of Magic is sure to be a hit.