In order to understand what is going on in The Books of Magic at this time you really need to know about The Children’s Crusade. The next few issues piggy-back off this and rely on characters and concepts introduced there. The Children’s Crusade was a seven issue crossover event in the Vertigo line. It was the first time Vertigo would do a crossover and, as it happens, the last as well. The first and last issues were bookends written by Neil Gaiman and Alisa Kwitney. The remaining issues were annuals for Black Orchid, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol and Arcana Annual #1. This last one is what concerns us because Arcana Annual #1 was basically the Books of Magic without the name. It is what led to the ongoing series that we are reading now.
Not to get too deep into the overall storyline of The Children’s Crusade it essentially deals with the ghosts of two boys who become detectives and attempt to find a group of missing children. These children have been taken to a place called “Free Country”.
Free Country is a place where children never grow old and are free from the abuse of adults. There is of course a dark secret there. In the Arcana Annual we are reintroduced to Timothy Hunter and we meet a dancer called Marya and her admirer Daniel from Free Country. The three, along with several other characters from the Vertigo world, attempt to heal the trouble in Free Country. Along the way Marya stays behind in the “real world” to peruse her dream of being a “real” dancer. And Daniel stays in Free Country and Timothy finally accepts the fact that he is magic.
This is a ridiculously brief and, let’s face it lame, synopsis of a rather large and complicated storyline. But to be fair most of what happens in The Children’s Crusade really does not concern us other than to reinforce that this was basically the reboot of The Books of Magic as an ongoing series. Timothy Hunter is positioned as the “greatest magician of his age” and Marya, Daniel and Free Country are introduced. These will all play a part as we go along. That brings us to…