While the new series, Charmed, written by Katy Rex and illustrated by Jonathan Lau, may feature a novice to the world of magic, the parallels to other popular series based on similar premises end there.

Instead of broomsticks and wands, the characters who populate this world are almost ordinary with their 9-to-5 jobs, trips to the local farmer’s market and daily battles with dirty diapers and testy toddlers. Of course, there are still plenty of magical adventures to be had, and readers should enjoy the interplay between the ordinary and the fantastical.

Based on the Charmed television series created by Constance Burge, the book centers on Delia, a teenager struggling to control her raw supernatural talent. After accidentally unleashing her powers at school to devastating effect, the famous Halliwell sisters swoop in to save the day. Under their guidance, Delia begins a new life for herself at a prestigious magic school, getting a crash course in age-old potions, the art of telekinesis and the torment of clique-y girls. Things become even more complicated when evil forces make their presence known, causing a strange change in the student body. It is up to Delia, her mentors and a few classmates to find out what’s going on and save the academy before time runs out.

Throughout, Rex does an excellent job of creating a world that teens can relate to. Delia and her peers grapple with isolation, fitting in, sexuality, insecurity, addiction and the pressure to excel both academically and socially. In addition, young adults play an integral role in the team put together to battle the evil forces that plague their school.

By tapping into the teenage psyche, Rex also gives the story a ‘modern’ feel, despite the glaring lack of technology. In fact, books reign supreme over smartphones and other handheld devices so ubiquitous in today’s mainstream culture. Instead of browsing the net, Delia pores over the library’s vast collection of ancient texts while the Halliwell sisters also forego the digital in favor of the printed word, turning to the celebrated Book of Shadows for all their demon-fighting advice.

The illustrations also enhance the book’s modern feel with the help of Lau’s artistic renderings that bring the characters to life. The eclectic cast represents a range of ethnic backgrounds as well as a mix of personalities represented by expressive tattoos, punk-inspired jewelry and flowing dreadlocks. This is definitely not your typical prep school with stodgy uniforms and hairdos to match. Some of the characters’ appearances also take on a more sinister appearance as the text shares more backstory and reveals hidden motivations. This is a helpful tool in discerning who is friend or foe, or in some cases, a little bit of both.

The images also hold the reader’s attention with their frequent change in point of view, from bird’s eye view to extreme closeup to frames that alternately fill the page or progress in sequential fashion. It’s clear that Lau carefully chooses each perspective to best complement the text, highlighting important plot points, maximizing intensity, conveying emotion and illustrating magic in action. Soft shading overlaid by detailed and expressive lines also adds to the appeal. The incorporation of solid blocks of black color, shards of light and jagged lines then create a dramatic contrast that further heightens the story’s impact.

Overall, the book is a fast-paced read that should appeal to teens as well as adults who enjoy a trip into the fantastical. Fans of the Charmed TV series may not be as enthusiastic, however. It is difficult to discern where on the timeline the story falls, and the Halliwell sisters comprise a smaller portion of the book than may be desired. They also don’t resemble their TV counterparts to any great extent, and to be honest, I had difficulty telling them apart at times. Fans of manga also may be disappointed. Despite its billing as such, the book reads left to right and the illustrations do not reflect the traditional manga style.

Charmed Vol. 1
By Katy Rex
Art by Jonathan Lau
ISBN: 9781524104229
Dynamite Entertainment, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

  • Johanna

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Johanna Nelson is a full-time graduate student pursuing her MLIS at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Through her studies, she discovered a love for the graphic novel format thanks to the likes of Raina Telgemeier and Art Spiegelman. While the two may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, both masterfully combine narrative and picture to create a compelling, rich story greater than the parts alone. As an aspiring school librarian, who will soon be on the path to teacher greatness through dual certification in education and library media specialization, Johanna also loves to explore the seemingly endless possibilities graphic novels hold when it comes to teaching and building literacy skills, helping English language learners, reaching out to reluctant readers and matching each and every kiddo with just the right book thanks to the wide range of subject matter available in this format. Prior to leading the “glamorous” life of a toiling student, Johanna served as features editor for a cheese and dairy trade newspaper that helped to cultivate her writing skills as well as her love for deliciously unique artisan cheeses – triple cream anyone? She also has held several library positions including page and library specialist in the children’s department of a public library. In her free time, she enjoys embracing her inner nerd through watching Jeopardy!, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, bird watching, hiking, sketching, and of course, reading whatever she can get her hands on.

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