Comic: "The Unwritten #1-7"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Plot: Tom Taylor, 20-something son of Wilson Taylor, mysteriously disappeared author of the Tommy Taylor childrens' books about a boy wizard (loosely based on his son) scrapes out a living on the con circuit riding the wave of his father's fame. At one of these con appearances, a woman starts asking uncomfortable questions, suggesting that Tom Taylor is not Wilson's son at all, and eventually reality itself seems to start unraveling around Tom as more and more questions arise without answers. The premise borrows the idea of Harry Potter, but this book has more in common creatively and thematically with The Books of Magic.
Review: If you're a fan of DC's Vertigo imprint and you haven't been reading The Unwritten, shame on you. It's the best new book to come out of Vertigo in some time. For those of you who trade-wait, the first collection is bound to be released some time soon, and I would highly recommend picking it up. This book has all the potential to be the next Sandman or Fables, but to me, it most closely resembles The Books of Magic, because it perfectly captures that delicious balance of fantastic and mundane, where you literally feel like anything could happen at any moment, which is what made that series so enjoyable to me.
We're seven issues in now, comfortably into the second story arc, and while I'm starting to have a vague idea of what the story is about, I still have absolutely no idea whatsoever where it's going. And I love stories like that--they're so wildly unpredictable that you don't even want to try to speculate. Being seven issues in and still not having a completely clear idea of the premise sounds frustrating, but believe me when I say it's insanely tantalizing--Mike Carey and Peter Gross are going for the extremely slow build-up here, oh-so-carefully tugging on the edges of the curtains, suggesting what might be behind but still not even giving us the slightest glimpse. But so far the suggestions alone are maddening in their power to hook you as a reader. They've really tapped into something special here, and a reading of the first issue will make that apparent.
The first arc strongly suggested the idea that reality isn't quite what we believe it to be, and the second arc continues building on that idea while putting protagonist Tommy Taylor through the wringer. Having the main character framed with a brutal murder and tossed into prison so early in the story was a bold move, and I don't know how they're going to continue things from here. The other players are slowly starting to reveal themselves on the board, but not all of their allegiances are entirely clear as of yet. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to spoil anything.
I spoke with Peter Gross briefly about this book at the San Diego Comic Con this year, as he's one of my favorite artists, and it was very clear that he hasn't been this passionate about a project in a long time. He would only hint at the kinds of things coming up in the story, but his excitement about the project was contagious. His artwork in this book has been fantastic, easily portraying the most mundane and fantastic elements side-by-side and looking perfectly at home with one another. And whenever he portrays a scene out of one of the Tommy Taylor novels, the artwork takes on a more whimsical quality that's subtle enough to have the intended effect but not jarring enough to throw you out of the story.
Carey and Gross are definitely going somewhere with this book, and I can't wait to find out where. It'd be a damn shame if the plug was pulled on this one prematurely due to poor sales (though my impression is that it's doing quite well so far), because this strikes me rather strongly as a road that will prove worth traveling to its end.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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