Review by Woodrow Phoenix
It’s A Magical World is the eleventh and final collection of Calvin and Hobbes, the newspaper strip by Bill Watterson that by this point was without question one of the all-time classics, as well-loved and recognisable as Krazy Kat and Peanuts (both of which Watterson cites as being big influences on him). In a highly unusual move for a newspaper cartoonist, he chose to discontinue this strip before it grew stale for him and the magic drained from his characters. This was a radical decision for anyone selling as many books as Watterson was at this point, but it was entirely in keeping with his desire to keep the quality of his work as high as possible. He didn’t compromise on any detail of the strip’s production and kept control of everything, a factor that was also behind his decision not to license his characters for the usual merchandising tie-ins of animation, toys and advertising.
The level of creativity and original humour in this last collection is as high as ever, but there is a definite air of contemplation over proceedings, and the energy feels a little mellower. Could it be that Calvin is growing up a little? If so, Suzie Derkins definitely hasn’t noticed. But in other areas, things are shifting. Rosalyn the babysitter actually arrives at a kind of truce with Calvin this time around and we see a lot more of his parents outside the family home without him. The calm, thoughtful atmosphere extends to the last few strips that Watterson will ever write for Calvin and Hobbes. The quiet minimal style of the final Sunday page feels as if the snowy white edges of the winter landscape are a metaphor for the thousands of pages that these characters inhabited over their time in newspapers and book collections. It’s a lovely way to send the two friends off into the ether, and this volume is a strong end to the series that will probably send readers immediately back to an earlier book to start over again.