Mike Carey is an excellent writer — easily one of the most talented names in the comics industry. He’s most lauded for his dense, philosophical work in the Lucifer series (a spin-off of Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman that’s woefully underappreciated next to its source material) and the more recent the Unwritten, both of which deal heavily with the nature / meaning / impact of storytelling (and arguably put his peers-in-reputation to shame).
Unfortunately, he’s also not afraid to knowingly write dreck for a paycheck. His the Sandman Presents: Petrefax miniseries — another Sandman spin-off — , Faker, his early superhero work: There’s little room in-between. He’s either at the top of his form, or writing lifeless cliches, where every word just follows a checklist of bad writing tropes.
Spellbinders: Signs and Wonders bottoms out his repertoire of paycheck stories. It was part of Marvel’s short-lived “Marvel Next” line of stories targeting teen audiences in 2005, and bears no relevance to any greater Marvel storyline, with no character or plot crossover that may interest particular fans. It takes most of its structure, dialogue and action scenes across its six issues from bad teen slasher films like I Know What You Did Last Summer or those awkward, early episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — only 8 years late to the party. Spellbinders is shallow: Angry, sassy teenagers insult one another, overdose on meaningless fantasy word vomit, or will explosions at one another by pushing air around with their hands.
The artwork is also quite bad. Like the storytelling, it feels years late to the party, and is most comparable to the overly sexualized superhero artwork that defined much of the ’90s.