The Books of MagicIt's a difficult thing to put a finger on, but there's something about this book that we really don't like. Don't get us wrong - the book is an expertly crafted story, showcasing many aspects of the Gaiman imagination. The art is great, perfectly demonstrating the skills of the four artists involved. And the characters are a whole bunch of DC's back catalogue from throughout the ages. In fact, that's exactly why we don't like it. It feels like a corporate showcase.
For starters, there are too many characters to take in. All of them are from DC's occult universe, though there's no reason why you should know any of them, except for maybe John 'Hellrazer' Constantine and a couple of cameos by some siblings of the Sandman. Both Constantine and the Sandman crew feature in far superior work in their own books. Here you have something that feels like an advert for their other titles. The fact that the art chores have been split four ways doesn't help the continuity either.
The main character, Tim Hunter, is a 12-year-old boy, deemed to have the potential to become a powerful magician. The story is not completely unlike Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in that Timothy Hunter is shown the past, the present and possible futures by a bunch of DC's spooky occult characters. Unlike Scrooge, Tim is also shown around a few parallel worlds, including old Gaiman favourites Faerie and the Dreaming.
There's no denying there's something of the Harry Potter about this, with Tim's bespectacled appearance, though this is no chicken and egg situation. Gaiman certainly beat Rowling to the young magician concept. Having religiously avoided Potter and his pals, your writer can't really comment any further on this (well, he could, but he refuses) though there's plenty of people out there who will.
So, in a nutshell, we weren't overly impressed. We know Gaiman has done better and it doesn't particularly surprise us that he left his young wizard creation for others to pick up. We also don't think the artists, with a quarter of a story each, had enough to sink their teeth into. It's not a bad book, but it feels like there's been a corporate polish to it somehow, which leaves us feeling a little cold.
Originally published as
The Books of Magic 1-4
Next in series
The Books of Magic: Bindings