"Books of Magic #3" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo Comics
Written by Kat Howard
Illustrated by Tom Fowler
Colored by Jordan Boyd
Lettered by Todd Klein
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on January 2nd, 2019
Young Tim Hunter is eager to embrace his destiny as the most powerful magician in the universe, however he's struggling with the work involved. Magic comes at a price and he doesn't quite know what that is just yet. Complicating matters are the strange cultists lurking in the shadows nearby, pulling strings in his life to turn Tim to the dark side. Regardless of where Tim goes next, a trail of blood is going to follow.
It would be easy to compare Books of Magic to Harry Potter, but that would be selling the comic short. Tim is young and inexperienced, just getting started in the ways of magic. He can be frustrating at times because he wants results now. He doesn't want to put in the time and energy to learn everything and do it right. You can almost understand where he's coming from because he's told he's destined to be this supreme magician, so why doesn't this stuff just come naturally to him?
Tim's life has already been turned upside down after he went out in the world on his first real magical journey. He wanted to find his missing mother and ended up finding a group of cultists with knives. They were left in a pile of corpses and that's plagued Tim ever since. He has trouble sleeping and he's getting sloppy.
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You can see this uneasiness in his face. Where Tim was always a dorky, awkward kid, he now has an idea of the reality of the world and that has scared the crap out of him. There's still a wide-eyed enthusiasm about him which is rather infectious. You can't help but get caught up in his adventure. Artist Tom Fowler strikes the right balance with the design for this character.
This contrasts well with some of the more savage elements in Tim's life, such as his teacher, who knows of his abilities. Where Tim is kind of thrown together, she is very buttoned up and proper. Nothing is out of place, which is saying something considering we've seen her eviscerate another human being in this series. There's clearly something more going on with her and I'm eager to see that explored further.
Colorist Jordan Boyd plays up the fantastical nature of magic, showing the grim dark side as well as the more lighthearted fun one. The former is shown in some of the teacher's scenes, with long shadows cast by candlelight as she performs a mysterious ritual. On the other end of the spectrum is the little magical treatment Tim gives to a friend, bright and full of energy.
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Tim's internal narration is presented almost like a journal. The caption boxes look like pieces of a page with jagged edges. Considering Tim's sloppy condition, this is a nice fit. Letterer Todd Klein matched this up well.
Fowler paces the story well, re-using shots to show the passage of time or to drive home a point or feeling. For example, early on in this issue, Tim is lying in bed with bags under his eyes. You see him, unmoving for panel after panel. While there's a clock in the frame, we don't need to look at it to understand he's been there for a while and sleep still eludes him.
Books of Magic gives us a man-on-the-street entry point into the Sandman Universe. Tim is an average, awkward kid, just like so many of us, so seeing him suddenly get caught up in the wide world of magic with all of its risks and consequences is riveting. He could save the world or destroy it and that will all be dictated by where he goes next.