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76 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Its Kind
Particularly after the success of Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" and Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", graphic novels have soared in popularity. Indeed, it now seems that the market is inundated with them, and practically every Vertigo title from DC is regularly recapitulated every seven or eight issues in collected paperback form. With such an...
Published on December 29, 2001 by Rodney Meek

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars C'mon, Timmy...
I'd hesitate to pass this volume along to a young reader by itself, for the same reason I'd be leery of presenting books such as "The Hunger Games" trilogy or the "Twilight" series as the end-all of literature: characterization.

That is, because Gaiman—who has proved himself over and over to be capable of crafting a fantastic story and all...
Published 8 months ago by Jack Harver


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76 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Its Kind, December 29, 2001
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
Particularly after the success of Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" and Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", graphic novels have soared in popularity. Indeed, it now seems that the market is inundated with them, and practically every Vertigo title from DC is regularly recapitulated every seven or eight issues in collected paperback form. With such an increasingly large selection from which to choose, the more casual reader might be baffled as to where to start. This volume probably wouldn't be the wisest choice.
While it is of the highest quality, it really has its best payoff for those who have at least a passing acquaintance with DC's occult universe and its myriad figures. So many of these pop up within the story (in a profusion not seen since the struggle for the North Slope of Heaven in the pages of "Swamp Thing" a few years ago) that it can be daunting to the neophyte. Even many of the more experienced comics readers might have a hard time placing two of the four major magical protagonists, Mister E and Doctor Occult (who actually is one of DC's oldest characters, having been created many decades ago before slipping into obscurity). In fact, so very many exceptionally minor characters pop up in the margins that it's necessary to hit the Internet to find annotations to explain their background and significance.
In large part, this collection is an attempt to codify and explain the chaotic history of the DC occult universe. Gaiman has an intimate knowledge of apparently every title ever produced over the last 30 or 40 years, and he induldges himself somewhat showily in dragging in every two-bit mage and witch for a fleeting guest appearance. Often, this is done for purposes of historical revisionism, which is for the good, since the accretion of rank silliness and sloppily conceived plots in the thousands of DC comics over the years has resulted in many mutually contradictory character origins and universal histories, not to mention a lot of gross stupidity. (Such an opportunity for widescale housecleaning was one of the few appeals of DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths", which gave the writers permission to ruthlessly slaughter dozens of idiotic characters and to destroy the countless alternate dimensions and the "it was just a dream" Earths. But I digress.)
Be that as it may, the heart of the story, which served to launch the ongoing "Books of Magic" series and its various mini-series spinoffs, is the realization by the mightiest of the occult powers that Timothy Hunter, a young lad in the UK, is destined to become the most powerful magician ever known, should he actively choose to walk that path. Accordingly, Doctor Occult, Mister E, the Phantom Stranger (always one of DC's coolest and most enigmatic characters, often thought to be a repentant fallen angel), and John Constantine (even cooler than the Phantom Stranger, although much scummier and devoid of nearly any useful powers) band together as the so-called Trenchcoat Brigade to show Tim what could lie in wait for him if he embraces a future of magic.
In its most basic form, this is of course a classic quest story, wherein a young man has to undertake a journey to discover his destiny, and along the way will discover mentors, guides, companions, and foes. In Tim's case, he's actually taken to the past and the future, and given an introduction to many of the occult players of the present. He also takes a fateful trip to Faerie, a mystical land which has long been of fascination to Gaiman (see his "Stardust", which also shares artist Charles Vess, for another treatment of the fey world).
The segment in Faerie is actually the strongest, largely because of the fantastic and dream-like nature of the setting and because of the art by the award-winning Vess, whose distinctive and delicate style suggests a naughty opium-addicted Victorian illustrator. Also of special interest are any of the scenes featuring the dissolute and disreputable yet popular John Constantine (who anchors his own series, the long-running "Hellblazer", itself a spinoff from "Swamp Thing"), a favorite Gaiman character. (I've noticed that all hip English characters in the comics have to share a loathing of the perceived horrors of Thatcherism, which arguably was the economic salvation of the UK, but again I digress.) Constantine is one of the most feared occult characters in the DC universe, even though he's actually one of the weakest. He gets by on bluff, style, and charm, and also because of his resemblance to a more dangerous and less eco-friendly Sting (tantric powers included).
At this early stage in the game, Tim remains mostly a cipher, since it's his job largely to merely bear witness to all that is being displayed to him. He has to make certain critical choices, but to a large degree he's overshadowed by the more strongly delineated members of the Trenchcoat Brigade. Even so, he plays an active enough role in his quest.
The character of Tim Hunter proves to be promising enough, and any Constantine appearance is welcome. Doctor Occult turns out to be so interesting that one wants to learn more (although very little has subsequently been done with this character). This volume is exceedingly enjoyable to any DC readers who have been fascinated with the magic-oriented superheroes, but can be intimidating to the less avid. Nevertheless, even for the more timid, the Vess artwork alone is worth the price of admission.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rock on, Trenchcoat Brigade!, December 12, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
With Books Of Magic, Neil Gaiman pulls together various loose threads in the DC universe, and creates a consistent realm of magic through the familiar theme of a young boy exploring a strange world. The plot isn't the freshest thing Gaiman's ever written - it's the way he writes it that makes the story spectacular. Gaiman intertwines stories of ancient sorcerers, modern-day magicians whose sleight-of-hand is only a convenient front, and the evolution of humans - and magic - in the future. Various DC characters make appearances, notably Gaiman's Dream, Destiny, and Death of the Endless. The choice of artists for each chapter is perfect, so we have a John Bolton Merlin and a wonderful Charles Vess Fairyland. The book gives us glimpses of many characters and stories that could use further development, but it stands alone as a powerful parable of the roles of faith, power, and, of course, magic, in our lives.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book,With Superb Characterizations,Excellent., June 30, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
The Books Of Magic, Like Any Other Gaiman Story,is Breathtakingly Amaazing in its Telling,and the art compliments the story wonderfully. This is arare and unique instance where an established artist such as Charles Vess works on a Comic book.There are cameo sequences in this book that include scenes with Dream,Death,Destiny,Etrigan the Demon,Deadman,Zatanna,and the Spectre, just to name a few characters. Timothy Hunter is one of Gaiman's finest creations,and he is an actually believable and interesting one,as well.
The Premise of the story is: Timothy Hunter, a very Young man,Pre-teen in fact,has the potential to become the greatest sorcerer of this age. The Trenchcoat Brigade,whose Ranks include The Mysterious Phantom Stranger,The incorrigble Hellblazer,John Constantine,The Enigmatic Dr. Occult, and Mr.E. His name says it all. The four decide to show Tim the magical history of Earth,and the universe,and some of the major magical players that exist in the DC universe.The Stranger shows Tim the past,Hinting at his origins all
the while,and making the reader rather curious about him.The Second Tour guide on the Magical Mystery Tour is John Constantine, and this is a very True-to-form Constantine story,in that most of the people whom they visit have some sort of grudge against everyone's favourite Constantine,and Tim is introduced to many of the prominent contemporary characters Like the Spectre,Jason Blood,and Zatanna.The Third story is about Dr.Occult taking Tim on a guided tour of the lands of Faerie,The Dreaming(Neil Gaiman's writing,
did you honestly think that Morpheus WOULDN'T show up?)Charles Vess did the artwork for issue 3, and that contributes to the magnitude of superb story this story inside of a story has.Also, if you read SANDMAN, you see Titania,and find out what Happened to Shakespeare's son, Hamnet.It also hints at the shadowy background of Doctor Occult.Issue Nimber Four is also very amazing,in that Gaiman tells us what's going to happen in the future.Or it might.Tim sees just what he might be,witnesses the final battle of the age,
and into the mind of Mr.E.and makes his decision about Magic.

I would Recommend this book to anyone wanting an introduction to the Vertigo Universe,anyone who wants a fantastic story,and if you have any sort of literary appreciation, you should go and buy this book as soon as you get a chance to.
The ongoing BOOKS OF MAGIC books dont have the wonderful feel that this book gives off, and you wont feel nearly as satisfied about them. I recommend any Neil Gaiman,Garth Ennis,and Alan Moore stories(especially their DC work).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand, epic and wonderous, April 1, 2004
By 
Sibelius (Palo Alto, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
Neil Gaiman's, 'Books of Magic,' is a must read for anyone entranced by the Sandman universe and even for those new to his stories and characters. This book is a complete standout both in writing and artwork. Comprised of 4 chapters spanning 200 pages or so, each chapter is masterfully illustrated by AAA artists like John Bolton, Charles Vess, etc. And we're not talking quickie pencil jobs either. Each and every panel in this book is absolutely gorgeous - utilizing lush paint-work, fantastic coloring and razor sharp lettering.
Fans of the Sandman series will particularly appreciate the storyline for its meta views of the Sandman universe. What readers are treated to is essentially a guided tour of the worlds (both in physical reality and nether regions) and timelines (the past, present and the absolute end of infinite time) occupied by the characters in the numerous volumes of the Sandman series. In a nutshell this series is grand and sweeping in every sense of the word(s) and it's absolutely beautiful to look at. Don't miss this one!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read with Fantastic Art (most of it anyway).), November 13, 2000
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
Herein we follow a young man, Tim Hunter, destined to be one of the greatest mages in history, as he introducted to magicks past, magic in present day world, the lands just beyond commonplace reality and magicks future by four DC Comics magicians: the Phantom Stranger (condemned to walk for eternity); Dr. Occult (who switches gender and personae as the occasion demands); John Constantine, Hellblazer (a con man and rogue, few powers but he has taken on the Devil himself and survived); and Mister E (a dangerous fanatic on the side of order). Gaimen's story makes for an excellent read, and three of the four illustrators involved: John Bolton, Scott Hampton and Charles Vess create beautiful illustrations throughout. (Sadly I didnt really like the artist's interpretation in the fourth chapter, it's the only reason I rate this book 4 out 5 stars instead of 5 out of 5.) These books were the basis of the ongoing DC/Vertigo comic book series by the same name (of which graphic novel collections are available). One drawback, common to many graphic novel collections (like Warren Ellis' "Planetary" books or Mark Waid and Alex Ross' "Kingdom Come" (both series also collected): to get the most of the story, it helps to have some familiarity with DC Comic book characters and history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Books Of Magic - THE DELUXE EDITION HC (2013), February 5, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
* * * * * CONTENTS AND OVERVIEW * * * * *

This over-sized hardcover collects The Books Of Magic #1 to 4, which were originally published as a miniseries consisting of four double-sized prestige-format issues back in the early nineties. Written by Neil Gaiman, this series features Timothy Hunter, who becomes a magician apprentice under the wing of occult powerhouses of the Vertigo/DC Universe, such as John Constantine, Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult and Mister E. The plot revolves around Tim Hunter having the potential to become the greatest mage of this age and the forces of good and evil disputing the young boy to attract him to their side.

This series presents a journey to the present, the past and the future of the Vertigo/DC magical universe, visiting distant realms such as Faerie, Camelot and Hell among others. If you are familiar with DC history, you'll love to to travel through and relive all of its magical glory. If you are new to it, you'll be inebriated with infinite realms of posibilities and at the end of the tale you'll want more. Neil Gaiman makes and excellent work condensing decades worth of occult DC history into a compelling story appealing to a wide audience.

* * * * * ABOUT THE ART * * * * *

Each one of the four chapters is gorgeously illustrated by a roster of top artits consisting of John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson. The art is truly amazing, fully hand-painted, with a scope of ambition that matches the grandeur of the tale at hand. Each artist has a very distinctive style ad vision but they all work perfectly when put together into this epic tale.

* * * * * ABOUT THE EDITION * * * * *

This is a very handsome, high quality book. I'm glad to see that DC/Vertigo is putting a serious effort into improving its Deluxe editions line.

- The paper stock is glossy and heavy weight
- The printing quality is great, with sharp and accurate art reproduction.
- The book features a fully printed hardback under the dustjacket (unlike many of DC/Vertigo HCs that sport an awfully cheap black cardboard presentation).
- It's a solid glued-binding volume. Of course a sewn one would have been better, but there's very little gutter loss, so it's fine.
- The extras consist of 8 pages of Charles Vess and Paul Johnson art and sketches as well as Neil Gaiman's outline of issue 3.
- The book includes a 2-pages intro by fantasy and science fiction writer Roger Zelazny from 1993.

* * * * * CONCLUSION * * * * *

Great story, beautiful art, high quality edition, a book definitely worth of your money. And if you are into the DC's New 52, you will be amazed to see how relevant this series still is in DC's current continuity, as Jeff Lemire's Justice League Dark draws many elements from it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical Books, July 20, 2004
By 
H. Roberts "vertigod" (vallejo, ca United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
One can only wonder what would have been had Neil Gaiman wrote the "Books of Magic" ongoing series after laying the foundation here in this collection of 1-4 of the limited series. Alas, Neil was busy with the Sandman, which turned out to be an epic in it's own right.

It's not that John Ney Rieber does a poor job after taking the helm as writer, it's just that after such a wonderful job by Mr. Gaiman we expect much more.

The basis for the story is this: a young male is destined to be one of the most powerful sorcerers ever. He also wears glasses, and has a pet owl. His name is.....not Harry Potter. It's Timothy Hunter, actually. Makes you wonder if J.K. Rowling might've been inspired by this story, though.

The basis of the story is this: some of the major occult figures in the DC Universe have joined forces to help young Tim with this huge burden. Then they each takes turns taking Tim on "A Christmas Carol" type of journey into the past, present and future of magic. Some of the people he meets are: John Constantine, Doctor Occult, Mister E, The Phantom Stranger, Deadman, Zatanna, The Spectre, Dr. Fate, and many others. For Sandman freaks, we get a chance to see Dream, Death and Destiny.

While Tim goes on this magical mystery tour to decide if he wishes to persue a life of magic, the forces of the evil are constantly a threat to him as they would like to eradicate Tim before he has a chance to do any good.

It's a great fantasy story with with equally great art. Each of the four books are painted by a different artist, including Charles Vess who will go on to paint the covers of the regular series. This is a book you will want to read again and again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It Is As Close As The Harvest Moon", January 31, 2006
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This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
Neil Gaiman works on a different level when he approaches graphic novels. While the apparent story in The Books of Magic is a straightforward tale of the initiation of a 12-year-old boy's initiation into the possibilities of magic it quickly becomes clear that there is a whole lot more going on. If Gaiman has any fault at all it is that he goes to every effort to get the reader to make the necessary intellectual leaps and sometimes the reader needs a little more action.

Timothy Hunter has all the appearance of a slightly nerdy 12-year-old, right down to horn-rimmed glasses and a skateboard. What he doesn't know yet is that he has the potential to become one of the world's greatest magicians (and I don't mean the pulling rabbits out of a hat kind). But four powers do know, and decide that Tim should be prepared to make an informed decision to accept or reject his gift. Not all these agents are equally well disposed toward Tim, but each is going to take him on a trip through the magical side - for good or for ill.

Each of the four voyages - whether it be meeting historical or present day magicians, trying to stay alive, visiting the world of Faerie (where you have to follow all the rules), or taking a trip to the very end of everything - are both an adventure and a lesson in magical things. Tim learns about dark and light, chaos and order, and power and its absence. Heady stuff for a 12-year-old, and Gaiman does not shy away from complex discussions.

In the end Tim must make up his own mind and understand the consequences. He will do so better prepared than he would have been otherwise. And Gaiman will have shown the reader the inside picture of his version of fantasy. It is often intricate and full of dark promise, but always, there is somewhere where the light falls on wonder.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story telling, December 31, 2003
By 
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
Having been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's for some time now, I discovered the Books Of Magic and purchased it in the hopes of being able to read something fresh and new. At first look, it seems like a Harry Potter rip off, although I later found out that Books Of Magic actually came first. I started reading and was soon swept away by the incredible artwork and brilliant story telling. Using the Trenchcoat Brigade to introduce young Tim Hunter to the world of magic was a stroke of genuis. It is always a joy to see The Phantom Stranger, Dr Occult, John Constantine and Mr E together. The four stories deal with Tim's journeys through the world of magic. The first is taken with the Stranger who shows Tim the past and magic's role from the very beginning. The second and I personally think the best story, is with John Constantine as he takes Tim to meet the various magicians and mages. Appearences by characters such as Madame Xanadu, Etrigan and Jason Blood, Baron Winter, The Spectre and Zatanna just to name a few were cleverly written and at times very amusing. For fans of the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine, this is a must as it has the disreputable mage's character down perfectly from the tacky looking trenchcoat to the ongoing joke of him having his face slapped whenever he tries to chat up a pretty young flight attendant. The interaction between him and young Tim were both warm and amusing at the same time. John Constantine's down to earth character really works well here. Charles Vess's artwork for the next story that takes place in Faerie is breathtaking. We seem to learn a little more about the enigmatic Dr Occult and his female half, Rose in this story arc. The last journey taken with the blind and fanatical Mr E is one of the most interesting although I have to admit I found the artwork very hectic and a little distracting here. And the very last scenes with Tim are wonderful and leaves the way open to the rest of the series. All up I have to say that this is one of Neil Gaiman's best stories. It does help if you have a working knowledge of the DC universe and if you have read The Sandman series as Dream, Destiny and Death all make an appearence. Even Cain and Able get their fifteen minutes as well. This is a book and a series that I would recommend to everyone, as much as I love Harry Potter I have to say that Tim Hunter is the more adult version in storytelling. And besides, in my opinion, any book that includes the Trenchcoat Brigade in always worth a look.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Books of Magic predates Harry Potter, November 28, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Books of Magic (Paperback)
I am a big fan of Gaiman and love his stories. I also love the Harry Potter series. There is debate over the Potter books being derived from Books of Magic, since Books of Magic was published first. I think each stands on its own, both are fine works and I recommend them both. But to the reader who thinks Books of Magic is a Harry Potter rip-off, check the publishing dates.
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The Books of Magic
The Books of Magic by Scott Hampton (Paperback - April 14, 1993)
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