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The Unwritten #42 – Review

By: Mike Carey & Peter Gross (creators), Chris Chuckry (colors), Todd Klein (letters), Yuko Shimizu (cover), Gregory Lockard (assistant editor) & Shelly Bond (editor)

The Story: The quest to rescue Lizzie begins.

A few things: 1). Unwritten is less fun when you don’t know the fable. - Over the course of the series, most of the “real world” stories that have appeared in The Unwritten have been stories that I’ve heard of or read:  We had an arc from Moby Dick.  Lizzie is from Dickens.  People are familiar with Nazi propaganda.  There are the obvious parallels between Harry Potter and Tommy Taylor….and I’m sure that if Carey and Gross had the legal right to use the Harry Potter characters, they would have.  It’s a lot of fun to watch these intersections between stories you know and this fictional world.

But, it loses something when the background stories are based on the folklore of the indigenous peoples of Australia.  I don’t know those stories. They have no relevance to me.  So, this issue just doesn’t quite click in the same way and makes me wonder if other readers have felt similarly neglected when The Unwritten pulls from some source material they (personally) don’t know.

2). Jury is out on new characters. - It’s unclear what these new characters are bringing to the story.  Didge is mildly entertaining and the young man with the glasses has a moment or two, but it’s not obvious that this story wouldn’t work almost as well with it being just Tom, Richie and a mystical animal or two.  The problem is that The Unwritten is a very complex work and while one is trying to concentrate on the story we must also waste brain cycles trying to recall the name of the young man with the glasses.  Surely, Carey and Gross have a plan for these characters, but it needs to be a really good plan because right now they are detracting from the story.

3). Interesting cliffhanger at the end. (SPOILER) - The best parts of this issue were the beginning (as we’ll see below) and the ending.  Wow!  After all these issues, it looks like Tom has finally found his way into this weird storyland where Pauly Bruckner and his talking animals live.  This is an interesting space because it isn’t really inside a story, it’s more the space between stories.  I’m giddy with anticipation at learning a little more about how the universe of The Unwritten works.

4). Intriguing concepts at the beginning. (SPOILER) - Similar to the great cliff-hanger ending, the beginning was pretty cool.  So Lizzie isn’t really “dead”……she’s just been kicked into a story about death and the underworld.  I want to know so much more about this.  She’s pretty clearly at River Styx and wanting coins to give to Charon to ferry her over to the underworld.  So…it makes sense to use River Styx here since it was kinda a boundary between our world and the underworld and Lizzie would have to cross over.  But, why use River Styx and not something like the concept of Purgatory or some other similar story element?  I mean, Lizzie is a Dickens character so was probably Anglican, right?  Pretty sure Anglicans at least kinda believe in Purgatory.  Why use River Styx when she clearly isn’t an ancient Greek?  And what happens on the other side?  Is she then in Dante’s Inferno?  I want more of THIS.  Compared to this beginning and the cliffhanger at the end, the middle is very weak tea.

5). What’s going on with the art? - The art in this issue is still very strong and it shows the dedication of the artist to laying down strong storytelling panels without a lot of care for fussy, showy splash pages.  But why do all the characters suddenly look so different?  Thicker?  Coarser?  It’s not unheard of for characters to change their look over a series as the artist settles in.  In fact, if you go back to the early issues of The Unwritten, the linework and coloring have changed a great deal.  But something is going on over these last few months, especially as it relates to Tom and Richie.  They just look very different to me.  It’s enough that I look at those credits that just credit both Carey and Gross as “creators” and wonder if maybe Carey draws sometimes?  Did someone break their hand and is having to draw differently?  Who knows?  It isn’t bad just different and sudden.

Conclusion: Some very fascinating work that sandwiches a middle that isn’t very interesting.

Grade: B

- Dean Stell

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