Friday, May 17, 2002

Neil Gaiman The Books of Magic (Vertigo) - I don't know for sure whether this collection of the four-issue mini-series was intended as a set-up for the series which I understand didn't follow immediately afterwards. But it's hard not to think that DC was at least testing the waters because The Books of Magic really doesn't do much other than establish the background for a potential series. Each of the four issues has a different artist and features a different magical character taking young Timothy Hunter on a journey (quite reminiscent of and possibly deliberately modelled on A Christmas Carol) while he decides whether he wants to follow the path of magic. The whole tpb is a tour of DC's magical universe but doesn't try to tie anything together or resolve any real continuity issues and much (most?) of this will be nearly incomprehensible to anybody who hasn't read decades of DC history. In fact there's not much of a story at all, the first issue being particularly unfocused. The question of Hunter's decision is pretty irrelevant because he's not much of a character but more an observer and most of the supposed high stakes are left unspecified so not many readers will care one way or the other. This deliberate ambiguity seems less mysterious than merely lazy plotting and the references to a conflict between Order and Chaos are dull if not outright intellectually dishonest. Still, when Gaiman isn't falling prey to his worst instincts (as American Gods does almost from the first sentence) The Books of Magic moves moderately well.