Eye of Newt is a new, four-issue miniseries from renowned fantasy illustrator Michael Hague, and it encapsulates all the wonderful elements you would hope to find in a classic fantasy tale. There are wizards and witches and dragons and magical baubles and talking animals, just to mention a few of the things to be found in this first issue. Newt is an imaginative, young wizard’s apprentice, and when he is not taking instruction from his powerful teacher, he is often daydreaming. As Newt approaches the trial that will determine how powerful of a wizard he will become, his master has a sense of foreboding about the young boy’s near future. Newt, on the other hand, is still just taking it all in, and though he has been taught much, one has the feeling that he still has much to learn.
Hague has illustrated such beloved books as The Hobbit and The Wind in the Willows, and he knows how to balance light and dark, whimsy and danger. He brings a sense of eternal, childlike wonder to the character of Newt, and since we see the world through his eyes, we feel that wonder and amazement, as well, such as the first time Newt rides a real dragon. The story is laid out in inventive ways, with storybook-style panels breaking up full-page spreads and creating a lyrical flow to the tale as it moves from scene to scene, each one just as lush and full as the last. The narration and dialogue is, at times, abrupt and a little jarring, but this is partly because Hague is mostly telling his story through tableaus which, when brought together, create a story that is the sum of its parts, and yet so much more. At times, we are only offered the most important points of a scene, possibly the same important points that Newt himself pays attention to, while the smaller, more mundane, connective points slip through the cracks, because those are not what Newt is focusing on, and this is his tale. The lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot is exquisite, and the various fonts used for the different characters are perfectly in line with Hague’s elegant and detailed art, even including his panel borders.
There is a sense of atmosphere and place in Eye of Newt, and Hague conveys much through his intricate backgrounds and gorgeous colors, using everything from rich blacks and bright reds to soft tans and deep blues. Newt lives in a magical world that is brimming with color, mystery, and terrible secrets, and while he is given snippets of what lies ahead of him, overall, Hague keeps his young hero aloof of the plot. This story will unfold in its own time, and this first issue provides us with the introduction we need in order to experience Newt’s epic adventure to the fullest. Hague has merely given us a glimpse of the size and scope of this world and of the perils that await the wizard’s apprentice, but one thing we do know is that on Newt’s journey, anything can happen. We just hope that Newt is ready for anything.