By: Mike Carey (script), Peter Gross (art), Chris Chuckry & Lee Loughridge (colors) and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: As stories and reality unravel, Lizzie and Richie try to save the world by finding an old friend.

The Review (with SPOILERS): I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the first two issues of this second volume of The Unwritten.  When I heard that the series was renumbering for a final, 12-issues finale, I worried that we might have to endure a 3-4 issue arc that would make the story “accessible to new readers” but would be pretty drab for people who have been with the story since the beginning (like me).

It turns out that I needn’t have worried and – if I was really thinking – I shouldn’t have been worried in the first place.  Throughout this series, Mike Carey and Peter Gross have woven a lovely tale, but they have made you work for it.  There’s no spoon-feeding of the plot and hidden meanings.  You have to do your own homework.  So, it really would have been out of character for them to put the training wheels back on just as we’re beginning the finale.

Last issue struck a nice balance between “new reader friendly” while still serving the ongoing story.  This issue just plows right back into the thick of the story without any screwing around.  I love that.  Not only is it good for me personally since I’ve read all the issues, but it is true to the nature of The Unwritten as a story.  It would almost be a betrayal of everything The Unwritten was about if you could just “jump on” in the final 12 issues and understand everything.  The Unwritten is about stories and the importance thereof: You can’t just read that last chapter.  If you read this issue as a new reader and are a little perplexed, that’s because you’re supposed to be.  Go read the rest of the story.  You’ll enjoy it.  I’ve rarely read a comic story that had as much real cohesion as The Unwritten: The more you think about it, the more it makes sense.

Anyway, as for the events of this issue, I loved a few things.  Firstly, it was great that they just went out and got Tom/Tommy back.  We weren’t forced to endure some 6-issue “Search for Tom Taylor” arc.  Obviously, we are in the 12-issue finale of the series and it would seem weird to waste time on a secondary story, but we’ve all seen great stories fumble about before.  Kudos to Cary and Gross for just getting it done with regard to Tom.

I also really liked the current state of the world.  For the last couple of years, the theme has been that humanity is losing the ability to make/create stories.  This was portrayed as somehow a threat to reality since we are all nothing but stories ourselves.  I knew we’d get to a point where we would SEE what such a warped reality looked like, but I also feared that result.  It was one of those situations where you worry that the actual result on the page won’t match what your imagination has conjured.  But the creative duo really nailed it.  You can just tell that what is left of reality is ruled by fickle little imaginings: there is no more coherent “story” of reality.  As Richie says at one point, “We’ve got Urban Horror on our left and some kind of Sex Fantasy of our right.  Both no-go areas.”  Then we see all the puddles on the ground asking for “Help!”  Those are the people of London whose “stories” aren’t holding together anymore.  It’s really grim stuff.  It’s also nifty how Wilson Taylor is basically holding a pocket of normal reality in place by typing about it furiously at his keyboard.  We’ve seen all along that Wilson is basically superpowered because he has the ability to tell such powerful stories that he can affect other people’s stories….and thereby affect reality.

And then there is the “new reader friendly” part that shows our protagonists waylaid by a bunch of literary “rakes” (just look it up on Wikipedia).  It’s a clever little tale that shows how awesome Lizzie is at MacGyver-ing her way out of literary trouble.  She’s basically the SEAL Team Six of this sort of work since she knows the ins and outs of every form of literary construct.  I call it “new reader friendly” just because it is a pretty safe way to introduce the concept of story as it is used in The Unwritten…..but it also ties in with the most mysterious part of the issue.

I was most intrigued by the opening pages that shows that young Australian man being confronted by a mysterious veiled women who asks him to kill her.  It was very weird and I have not a clue what it means (but don’t doubt that the meaning is there if I scratch enough).  What impressed me about this is how self-aware the creators are.  When I first saw this young Australian man, I said, “Ugh….not that Australian dude.  I don’t even remember his name and I really don’t understand how his story is supposed to connect with the part of The Unwritten that I care about.  I don’t want to read about him.”  And then the veiled woman basically goes on to say that the Australian dude is important precisely because nobody remembers him and nobody cares about him.  I’m not sure what that means but I love how this comic is perfectly at my wavelength.  The Unwritten makes me feel like the creators are telling me a personal story and they modify each chapter based on how I reacted to the last one.  I KNOW that they aren’t really doing that…..I just happen to be right in the middle of the bullseye that they’re aiming for.  It doesn’t happen often in comics.  I say I like deep comics, but I can’t ever understand what the hell Ted McKeever is talking about in his comics because they’re written for someone a little deeper than me.  Similarly, I think most superhero comics are fun, but awfully shallow because they’re mostly written for people who don’t want to think too much.  The Unwritten is PERFECT.

It would also be appropriate to give Vertigo kudos for the paper they’re using on this finale.  I read 80% of my comics digitally and only do the “dead tree version” of comics that I KNOW I want to save forever (like The Unwritten).  It’s so nice to see a comic with nice, heavy paper and coated stock for the cover.  This is A+ treatment.  The creators have slaved over this comic and story and it deserves nice paper.

Conclusion: The most complex ongoing story in comics is really, really back.  Although it is welcoming to new readers, it doesn’t flinch from plowing right along with the main story.  Every time you stop to think more about The Unwritten, the story makes MORE sense.

Grade: A

– Dean Stell