by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (art), Chris Chuckry & Jeanne McGee (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Prison Governor Chadron’s personal life and his children’s imaginative investment in Tommy Taylor are explored.

What’s Good: A couple of issues ago, I criticized Carey’s writing of Governor Chadrons chastisement of Tom Taylor as being a bit over the top.  Well, this month, Carey goes out of his way to make a fool of me and prove that there is pretty much no way to even nitpick his series, as he gives us an issue fleshing out Chadron and his children.

What ensues is the brilliance we’ve come to expect from the Unwritten.  While it isn’t overt, it’s clear that Carey is drawing heavily on Romantic ideas about the child.  As Chadron’s children get lost in Tommy Taylor themed role-play, the conflict between Chadron and his wife over their daughter’s seeming inability to separate fantasy from reality grows into a larger clash between Romanticism and the oppression of materialism and rationalism.  Simply put, Chadron wants his children to enjoy their childhood make believe, while Chadron’s wife sees it as a mental disturbance.

Perhaps the strongest scene of the book is daughter Cosi’s appointment with a psychiatrist.  What follows is an interesting questioning of the nature of truth and the supposed divide between fiction and reality.  Hell, at one point, Cosi even questions empiricism itself.  Despite all this though, the children always sound their age and the issue remains very readable and very engaging.

But certainly, the clash is rendered beautifully.  On the one side, we have the carefree, fun childhood games and on the other, we have a psychiatrist defining such games under the technical terminology of psychological disease and “psychosis,” recommending a regime of drugs and therapy to quash it.  When reading this course of treatment, one wants to scream at the page because it feels so wrong and so oppressive.

Meanwhile, the dialogue between Cosi and brother Leon is one filled with whimsy, fantasy, and make-believe.  Opposed to this, the dialogue between Chadron and his colleague is hopelessly mundane.  That said, Chadron himself is a remarkably strong character who I hope we’ll see more of.  Chadron seems to elide the child/adult divide somewhat; unlike his wife or the psychiatrist, he himself participates in his children’s imaginative whimsy.  Indeed, Chadron’s dialogue essentially becomes a soapbox for Romantic doctrine: imagination, the sort one sees most particularly in children, is the medicine one needs to get through the mundane, daily grind of adult life.

Peter Gross puts out a stellar issue this month.  Despite the lack of flashy visuals or splashes, his work is evocative and distinctive in its deceptive simplicity.  The divide between children and adult is well maintained in both Gross’ illustrations of the characters themselves, and their environments.  The dark blue bedroom of the children stands in direct contrast to the harsh red hallway of the parents.

What’s Not So Good: I can imagine a lot of readers being fairly disappointed with this issue’s not picking up from last month’s cliffhanger.  I know that I certainly was.  That said, try to keep an open mind and soldier forward.  What you’ll find is a truly rewarding experience.

Conclusion: An issue that is a fun read on surface level and deceptively clear cut, but packed with philosophical ideas and very readable on a deeper level.  The book is nonetheless enjoyable on both sides.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans