The Names of Magic #1–5 (of 5)
[Vertigo/DC Comics $2.50 US $4.25 CAN]
Written by Dylan Horrocks / Illustrated by Richard Case
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The Names of Magic picks up 24 hours after the ongoing Books of Magic series ended. A fourteen year-old Timothy Hunter is alone and hunted by the Faerie and two very dangerous magical secret organizations—The Cold Flame and The Lotus. Helping Tim is a Walker, and John Constantine, Dr. Occult, The Phantom Stranger and Mister E. Upon hearing Tim’s decision that he wants to learn how to use the powerful magic that’s within him they ask the Walker to take him to the White School, a mysterious school for mages located in the English countryside. In order to draw things out for five issues, however, Tim can’t get into the school until he knows his “true name.”
The group from The Lotus that’s chasing Tim is headed up by one Mr. Lily—a powerful and scary mage with a penchant for listening to bubble gum pop. They end up being the main threat to Tim and the Walker but gun-toting thugs do most of the actual chasing. At times I thought I might have stumbled into the middle of a Preacher or 100 Bullets story there was so much gunplay.
The appearance of otherworldly creatures is kept to a minimum in this series. We do get to see a bit of the Faerie and one even allies herself with Tim—Iolanthe of the Willow Clan, a beautiful half human-half faerie warrior whom Tim saves from death. In the final confrontation Tim and his companions battle human and Faerie baddies but we don’t get any deliciously whimsical creatures such as inhabited Tim’s world as imagined by John Ney Rieber, Peter Gross and Peter Snejbjerg in the Books of Magic series.
The whole point of this mini-series is to introduce new readers to Tim Hunter. It also serves as a bridge between the old series and the current ongoing series (Hunter the Age of Magic) which takes place three years later when Tim is seventeen, more knowledgeable about magic and, one supposes, can’t conceivably be mistaken for Harry Potter.
The mood Dylan Horrocks sets for Tim’s world is far different from the dream-like, fairy tale mood in the ongoing Books of Magic series. I must admit I missed that old Books of Magic feel. Horrocks’ world is too action-movie tough for a story about magic and discovering oneself. Perhaps Azzarello’s success on Hellblazer influenced that or perhaps they wanted Tim kept far away from Harry Potter comparisons. Whatever the reasons I found myself getting bored with the constant gunplay and near escapes.
Richard Case’s artwork for The Names of Magic is typical Vertigo—strong on characters and storytelling. You never have any trouble telling the characters apart and Tim looks like a fourteen year old boy which is something all of the Books of Magic artists have been good at—everyone looks their age. You don’t get any of that children as smaller shorter adults illustration style which is so prevalent in the super-hero genre.
This is probably a good introduction for readers who didn’t follow the Books of Magic series. You’ll get enough background that you won’t be confused and you’ll be good to go for the new series. As a long time reader, however, I missed that fairy tale storytelling quality from the original series. Of course the case could be made that this current storyline reflects Tim’s growth into young adulthood. A time when we leave fairy tales behind and face the world as it really is for good or ill.
You should still be able to find this mini-series at your local comic shop but if not, wait for the trade paperback. I’m sure there’ll be one. You can visit the DC Comics web site at www.dccomics.com to learn more about Tim Hunter and The Names of Magic.