Monday, September 26, 2011

The Books of Magic

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Fantasy (Best of the Rest)
Contains: The Books of Magic #1-4 (Mini-Series)
Year: 1990, 1991
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson (One issue each)

Hello, faithful readers...

Ahhh...  At last we've reached another one of my favorite creators and authors.  Mr. Neil Gaiman.

It had been ages since I'd read any of his stuff.  Even longer since I wasn't rereading something that I'd picked up that he'd written.  When I decided upon The Books of Magic and came to it in my little reading order I've got arranged for the blog here, I couldn't wait to dive in...  Especially given the premise.

We open with four DC Universe practitioners of magic and the occult (a man in a black coat, John Constantine, Dr. Occult, and Mister E.).  We flash back and forth between shots of these mighty wizards and a young, rather Harry-Potter-on-a-skateboard-looking young boy.  The magicians are discussing the young boy and how "he has the potential to become the most powerful human adept of this age."

Their task, and the premise of this volume, it seems, is to approach the boy (whom we come to know is named Tim Hunter), show him things of the world(s) of magic, and then present to him a choice.  Does he want to have anything to do with magic or not?

Each of the four mages get their turn with Tim (one in each issue, each illustrated by a different, very gifted artist), showing him different realms, explaining to him the histories and nature of magic, and guiding him through all sorts of varying experiences hoping to get him to make the right decision at the end of all their ordeals.

These four issues were simply stunning.

Gaiman takes young Tim from the beginning of time to the end of the universe with these four mysterious characters, touching upon everything from the Judeo-Christian version of the creation of the universe to druidic magicians draped in animal skins to the Egyptians to Merlyn to various practitioners of sorcery from the DC Universe (besides the four guiding Tim) to the absolute end of everything.  The ride itself, as we turn every corner with the young protagonist, is truly something special.  I've never seen such a study of so numerous and varied myths concerning magic.  Gaiman handles each as if he were a grand master himself.

And these various journeys that the guides take Tim on...  Amazing.

We are led through diverse landscapes in plot and artistry as Gaiman makes each issue so unique it could stand on its own.  The artists, though using a similar style to one another throughout, each put their own benchmarks on their art.  They lead us through near psychedelia, dark urban landscapes, faerie kingdoms, and massive cosmic wars.  A breathtaking exhibition...

Another amazing thing about this volume is that this was only the beginning, the warm-up, the getting started...  Tim hasn't even made his choice whether he'll wield the forces of magic yet and Gaiman and the artists wow us again and again in what was basically an introduction to a character that ended up getting another 75 issues to take similar journeys.

We've not seen the last of Tim Hunter here on Best Comics Quest!.  The first volume of the actual ongoing series entitled The Books of Magic: Bindings is here on the list in Mr. Kannenberg's book, as well.  If it's half as good as this one, we're gonna be in for a treat.

This book was a great read and certainly the best of the last few that I've read.  It was also a great return to Gaiman's work for me and something that's got me excited to potentially check out the entire run of The Books of Magic.  If you're even a slight Gaiman fan, are intrigued by the occult, or just down for a great adventure with all sorts of fantasy elements, you'll definitely wanna pick this one up.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 5 out of 5
12 down, 488 to go

Next time: SSHHHH!

I'll whisper at you then.  Be well, all...



  1. Hey, I'm still reading! I'm trying to ration these out for myself, so that I always have something fresh to read. This was a great post bro! Glad you happened upon another one that got you to dish out another "5/5". Very well written and very informative. Keep 'em comin'.

  2. Hey, hey, hey, bro!

    Was just gettin on to throw up ANOTHER post and got an e-mail that you'd commented! I'm still very stoked to see you're doing so and I plan to give you plenty more to read this weekend. (Starting TONIGHT!)

    "The Books of Magic" WAS very, very good. Definitely one of my favorites that I've read thus far and one that went straight to newly penned "buy list", which contains this book and "Blankets" so far.

    This one had an amazingly sweeping story that just caught you up, even though it only had four issues to do so. I've got a newly found interest in all sorts of magic, religions, and myths lately, but even a person who's not greatly interested in those things would probably still find a nice solid read here.

    A masterfully crafted tale from one of the masters of the medium (and of story, for that matter).