Friday, March 08, 2013

Neil Gaiman's The Dream Hunters has the power and poetry of myth

Book 29: The Book of Magic by Neil Gaiman
Book 34: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman

Two graphic novels from Neil Gaiman.

My favorite is The Dream Hunters, the story, set in Japan, of a fox and solitary monk that has the power and poetry of myth.   The illustrations of Craig Russell provide this brief tale with lush and dreamy quality.

As the story opens, a fox and badger conspire to chase a solitary monk from his modest temple. The one who succeeds may claim the temple for a home.

Neither the badger nor the fox succeed in their scheme and the badger soon leaves the story, shamed by his failure.  After the fox, who has fallen in love with the monk, overhears a plot to kill the monk, she determines to sacrifice her life to save his.

The Dream Hunters is a moving story of the resilience of love, the power of dreams and the implacable nature of destiny.  It's Gaiman, and Russell, at their best.

The Books of Magic is the story of Timothy Hunter, a 13-year-old skateboarder, who is confronted with a staggering opportunity -- to embrace magic and his destiny as the greatest magician of his generation.

Timothy, naturally, does not believe in magic, although that viewpoint changes after four powerful magicians serve as his escorts to the past, the present, the future and the Far Lands.

A quartet of artists illustrate the four sections of this book, providing each section with a distinctive look and feel.  The art of Charles Vess in Book III: The Land of Summer's Twilight is especially appealing and well-suited for the story set in the Far Lands.

Fans of DC Comics will note that all of DC's magical characters make appearances in these pages -- from the Phantom Stranger and John Constantine, who are among Timothy's escorts, to Doctor Fate, the Spectre and Zatana.

The Books of Magic collects the four-issue mini-series that appeared under DC's Vertigo imprint.  Timothy's later adventures became an on-going series for Vertigo.

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