Books of Magic #1 is the last of the four new stories to join Vertigo’s Sandman Universe line. This one feels a bit less connected to the other titles in the shared universe, though.
Instead, the book recaps much of what teenage magician Timothy Hunter underwent in his initial four-issue run penned by Gaiman himself. This makes it a friendly jumping-on point for new readers. However, it might feel a little redundant to returning fans of the title.
We see Timothy struggling to live as average teenager, while still cognizant of his supernatural abilities. Overall, though, little has changed for Tim in the years since we last followed his adventures. He is cocky and self-assured, but his grasp on his powers, and the discipline required to use them, seems weak. It’s like the character has forgotten everything he learned in his earlier outings.
As a result, Books of Magic #1 feels less like a continuation of the story, and more like a relaunch. This could be intended to set up more dynamic growth for the character, though, so not a major gripe.
The first issue plays up the “chosen one” angle, emphasizing “Magic is neither good nor bad. Only its use determines its character.” Playing off that, we’re introduced to a mysterious cult who seems intent on ensuring Tim never complete his magical learning, for fear of how he’ll use his power some day.
The story in this first issue is solid, but it doesn’t move forward much. The story doesn’t really pick up momentum until its last few pages, rendering most it as setup. Writer Kat Howard is clearly building toward more in later issues, but this just feels like preamble.
Tom Fowler’s art in Books of Magic #1 provides the story an interesting aesthetic. The first five pages constitute a recap of Tim’s story, and the arcane imagery helps sell the magical angle.
Once we get into the story proper, the style settles down a bit. The lines are sharp and angular, especially in characters’ faces. While it works for some great, expressive looks, it has the side effect of making certain characters look a bit haggard, rather than youthful.
Like other titles in the Sandman Universe thus far, the colors used are rich throughout the issue. Everything is cast in shades of blue and orange, giving a natural, though just-slightly-off vibe.
Books of Magic #1 is a good start for the latest installment in this story. I feel like we’re going places…we just can’t really tell where yet, based on this first issue.