BOOKS OF MAGIC #1
Tim Hunter has accepted magic into his life, but at what cost? Beginning with a day in the life of an ordinary school boy, we begin to see that all is not as it seems for the young mage to be. Tim himself is beginning to wonder if the mistakes and losses of his own past can be fixed with the gift of a magical book, as meanwhile secret watchers observe him from the shadows and everyone around him seems to have an agenda.
Having been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s original prestige creation and also the continuing series taken up by John Ney Rieber, I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the issue. Especially given the vast history of the character, which also include The Names of Magic, Age of Magic and finally Books of Magick: Life During Wartime. And so knowing all this would be a huge undertaking I was, to say the least, a little bit apprehensive.
However, it’s safe to say that Kat Howard has rolled up her sleeves and taken to the character with gusto and she has returned him to the bare bones of the original, taking the character back to his early days just after accepting his place in the world of magic. Much like Dylan Horrocks, who also took Tim back to his origins in Hunter: Age of Magic and his time at the White School, she has succeeded in making him her own and is giving us a new and unseen version of the boy destined to be a lynchpin in the world of magic. As well as drawing a line in the sand in regards comparison to ‘other’ bespectacled young magicians. The inclusion of Mad Hettie and Rose are also clear indicators that this story occurs directly after Neil Gaiman’s original miniseries back in 1990. Which is comforting, as it even has a brief recap of those events which were so important in the beginning, including the invitation by the Trenchcoat Brigade to the world of magic, but cleverly avoids making it a complete origin retelling by only briefly alluding to the initial miniseries, with the stunning use of lettering by Todd Klein giving the narrative a storybook opening, before deftly slipping into the world of the humdrum.
Jordan Boyd makes great use of stark colors and also injects some individuality, as this world we share with Tim is vastly different to that created in the subtle palette used by Peter Gross. It’s brighter and more realistic, showing the typical Secondary School of brightly lit corridors and school classrooms and offers a new version never seen before of Tim himself. After all, readers of the original series will remember there were several versions throughout the narrative, most of whom were killed at the hands of The Other, his older self paving his way to being controlled by the Cold Flame. And also the slight difference in the behaviour of his father, who originally was so distraught at the loss of his wife he barely noticed Tim coming and going. It took several months for him to even be seen as slightly animated. This time he is directly aware of what’s been going on in Tim’s school life and seems to take more of an interest, albeit only to offer very little comfort about their situation.
The art of Tom Fowler also excelled, as well as stripping back the veil of magic and planting us firmly back at the source of the characters world, he has also made Tim different in his physical appearance, looking maybe a little younger in the classroom to the version we see in his own dream and the visions of Titania. This could imply that this is a prophetic dream, but I’m more inclined to believe this is a different version of Tim, seeing what we already know to have happened to the ‘other’ Tim. Especially with the inclusion of minor details like Fidget Spinners, making it a more contemporary age. We are clearly dealing with an up to date and altogether alternate interpretation of Timothy Hunter. And although we have no Molly, we do now have Ellie. I can only hope she proves just as interesting and funny, as I do miss Molly. He also isn’t quite as proficient in the use of magic, as seen when he attempts to impress the girl.
We also see things gradually slipping from the typical school and home life as we see traces of magic being utilised by Rose, confirming that Tim knows for sure there is real magic, but keeps us rooted in the real world. Only to then transport us from the mundane to the mysterious, with his wistful thoughts about the loss of his mother, which is an area not much tackled in previous incarnations, the sinister and threatening watchers, not to mention his would be killer, themselves being observed in turn by Rose at the very end. And this is refreshing to see as this leads us to realise the road ahead is far from plain sailing and Rose herself is going to play a huge role in the future of the young magician.
The only hiccup for me visually speaking was Rose’s office. It’s not common for the typical English Comprehensive School to be furnished with antique furniture, let alone wooden desks more elaborate than a plain four legged affair. Usually they would consist of more functional and nondescript metal desks and most especially absolutely NO hurricane lamps or rugs. Health and Safety rules all in school I’m afraid.
That small detail aside the art itself complete with a beautifully haunting cover by Kai Carpenter and similarly stunning variant showing all of the rich history of the character and some of his supporting cast by Josh Middleton this is otherwise off to a great start.And so of course finally we need to deal with the elephant in the room that is…Harry Potter. And while Kat Howard is a self confessed Harry Potter fan she has succeeded in creating a narrative far removed from that of the Boy Who Lived and is more obviously in the same vein as The Opener. My initial concern was that given the very few yet striking similarities in common, people unfamiliar with Tim may see this as a copy, which is not a deserving tag at all. After all we must remember Harry and the world of Hogwarts exploded into the public consciousness some seven years after the creation of Books of Magic (and not four years as claimed by the Hollywood Reporter) and so is a completely different beast within the same genre. In fact despite claims in the past by the tabloid press that Gaiman implied JK Rowling plagiarised him, Gaiman has furiously refuted this was the case.
And given that Timothy himself was actually loosely inspired by TH White’s Once and Future King, itself based on Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, it is far from being the original idea of anyone within contemporary fiction. Indeed neither Tim or Harry can lay claim to the mantle as the first young magician with a great destiny. For instance 2000 AD had a strikingly similar story in the 80’s called The Journal of Luke Kirby.
But whatever the case, a small measure of comfort can be taken from the fact that at least we didn’t lose Tim completely to the explosive success of Harry and can now revisit the world of The Opener, which was something I never thought we would see again. Even if we will never see the movie, once set to be Executive Produced by Neil Gaiman himself. And I for one cannot wait for the next issue which will be released 28th November.
Kat Howard and company succeed in pulling a completely different rabbit out of the hat. A highly promising start, with a seeming reboot or the telling of another version of Tim in a refreshing new light.
Books of Magic #1 Return of the Wiz
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Art - 8/108/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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