Story: Kat Howard
Art: Tom Fowler
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Letterer: Todd Klein
What They Say:
Dr. Rose goes on a special assignment, leaving Tim to search the school library for more books only to be caught performing magic by his nemesis Tyler! Will Tim be able to explain what Tyler saw, or will he be outed as a magician?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With a skip month behind us, Books of Magic holds up well enough since it has been the most straightforward of the new Sandman Universe books in what it’s doing. Kat Howard is easing us into Tim’s world in a good way that may be too slow for some but has hit a sweet spot for me with things going on, characters introduced without being rushed, and a sense of everything building bit by bit. It also doesn’t hurt that Tom Fowler is turning in some “classic Vertigo” kinds of artwork here with great character designs, some well-done settings that feel very lived in, and a sense of magic just around the corner when those flashes of it do arrive. We may not have a massive story in scope here at this point but the opening arc of a series shouldn’t usually be world changing.
Tim’s still struggling with his sleep some but we see him getting off to a good start here even considering all that’s been going on. I love the bits in trying to ensure that the owl doesn’t follow him to school and just seeing a little more of the dynamic between him and his father fleshes things out well. The school side is where most things are happening, however, as Dr. Rose is putting the gang on assignment in the library while she deals with other things. That has Tim curious but without answers, since she’s still treating him like the kid that he is, and that has Tim just struggling with basic school aspects. Which includes how he’s so awkward around girls, which is a cliche I’m not surprised by but wish it wasn’t one used since it just feels too easy. It does serve to keep him separate from everyone else, however.
And that has him going for help from the librarian, Mr. Davies, an eccentric type who has a certain view of books that others don’t in how he adores them. That he has some element of magic himself is no surprise by how he comes across, but I enjoyed how we see Tim using his as a shortcut to get an impossibly high book for a school library which Tyler sees him doing. That opens its own kettle of fish to deal with and seeing Tim trying to put on a brave front here about how he didn’t really see anything and nobody would believe him anyway is great. It feels like a little spine for Tim that we don’t often see. This plus what we see Davies doing combined with Tim thinking about the Dreaming as a way to manage his nightmares puts a lot of things in play, but it there’s no real payoff here beyond stepping into what may be the Dreaming.
I continue to enjoy Books of Magic out of all the launch books the most and easing into Tim’s life and what he struggles with is engaging. There are big stakes looming out there to be sure but right now everything is kept smaller and more personal, which works in its favor in my mind. Kat Howard gives us more of his day to day and some of the challenges there, the self-hate that comes into play at times, and intrigue with both Dr. Rose and Mr. Davies with what they show of themselves here. Tom Fowler really delights me with his design work here as the traditional flow is right for this book in the mundane world but he captures a quirkiness with the character designs and intrigues with the magic. I can’t wait for more and hope that the skip months aren’t common.
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Vertigo Comics
Release Date: January 30th, 2019