It’s impossible to talk about Tim Hunter without talking about Harry Potter.
Tim is a novice magician with enormous glasses and an owl for a companion. The similarities between Tim and Harry Potter aren’t a flaw of the book. Tim was created earlier than Harry, in comic books published beginning in 1990; both characters are simply based on the same classic fantasy tropes. The problem is that there are tropes everywhere: Tim is threatened by sinister figures in hooded cloaks and by a vicious bully. After a few generations, even classic archetypes start to feel like clichés. But some of the familiar elements are altered in such strange ways that they become genuinely surprising. The mystical key is constructed out of junk, and the helpful owl was originally Tim’s yo-yo. Even the word “abracadabra” shows up so unexpectedly that it regains a sense of wonder. It helps that the characters’ facial expressions are often remarkably complex and nuanced even when the characters themselves are stock figures. Tim’s love interest, a black girl named Ellie, is severely underwritten. The dialogue, however, is often clever enough to make every character engaging. Ellie is also the only major character who isn’t white.
Stories like this demonstrate that the classic fantasy tropes still work, but this entry unfortunately doesn’t quite demonstrate it enough. (Graphic fantasy. 12-18)