By: Mike Carey & Peter Gross (creators), Vince Locke (inks on some scenes), Chris Chuckry (colors), Todd Klein (letters) and Pornsak Pichetshote (editor)
The Story: Tom is stuck in Moby Dick and one of his friends is now a confirmed vampire!
What’s Good: I am soooo glad this series has gotten its mojo back. I loved Unwritten for the first 12 issues and honestly thought it was one of the best titles on the market. It kinda lost its footing around issue 15 or so, but last issue was a big change for the better and that streak continues this month. The key is that the creators have gone back to the roots of the series by exploring the concept of “what is a story?” and this interesting ability to bring literary characters out of the page and into real life.
When we last left Tom Taylor, he was coming to grips with his special status and had taken himself into the story of Moby Dick where he found his dead (we think) father filling the role of Ahab. I found it very engaging to see Tom exploring the limits of his powers (now that he realizes he has them) to shape and explore the story, especially the realization that none of the characters can grow beyond what the story’s creator has written for them. It is an interesting concept. I know that we all sometimes fall in love with certain fictional characters and decide that “Such-and-such is tough/kind/smart.” Well, that isn’t really true…”such-and-such” is just fictional character and they only exist to the extent that creators have written their story. All they are is what is on the page even if we might heap extra character attributes onto them.
Meanwhile in the “real world” Lizzie and Savoy run into that weird puppeteer lady who has been lurking for a few issues now. Boy is she chilling! I guess her ability is about what I thought it would be, but there is something about her character design that makes her really spooky.
There is a bit of a change up on the art this month with Vince Locke handling inks on the scenes from Moby Dick. Throughout the series, they have made good use of slight artistic changes like this to emphasize that the action is happening in a different reality that the “real world”. I don’t know if “they” are going it 100% to give a portion of the story a different look or if it is also to give Gross a rest break on art duties, but if it is the latter, I wish all comics could bring in a guest inker so seamlessly.
What’s Not So Good: As much as I’ve enjoyed the last two issues, I have to admit that I’m kinda ready to move on with the story. We’re now 21 issues in and what we’ve really learned so far are things that we kinda suspected very early on in the story: Tom Taylor actually IS Tommy Taylor and his compatriots Lizzie and Savoy are also literary characters who have been summoned to help Tom. Tom has some power to manipulate stories and that power is important somehow against this mysterious/sinister organization that tries to somehow control the world through the power of story. I get it and I’m ready to move to the next phase of the story.
Also, from a story standpoint, I would love to know if the creators see this as a series that will have an ending or whether it is something more like Fables that’ll keep running and running. I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like this story is a little stuck and part of that feeling could be that I can’t really tell what act we are in. I guess the analogy is that when you read a novel, you can tell that you are on page 242 out of 900 and that gives you some sense of how the drama should unfold. Similarly, when you read The Avengers, you know it will never end and adjust your expectations. I just can’t place The Unwritten right now.
Conclusion: Unwritten is back. I am ready for the story to ramp it up a bit, but it is so nice to have this series back after a little wander in the wilderness. This is one of the smartest and most literary titles out there and one you can hand to any naysayer who sneers at you for being an uneducated boob when you mention you read comics.
– Dean Stell