A new Vertigo #1 is often something to check out. A new Vertigo #1 that’s $1.00 is almost always something to check out. A new Vertigo #1 that is 1.00, written by Mike Carey, and is 40 pages long? Well, that right there was enough to get me to give Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s new book, The Unwritten, a shot. I’d heard a little about it and read some of the preview, but it wasn’t particularly on my register.
The story, for those who haven’t seen it about, stars Tommy Taylor. Tommy is a real guy in his 20s, but when he was a child, his father based a series of fantasy novels very much reminiscent of Harry Potter on him – the Tommy Taylor books. The books quickly eclipsed Potter, Twilight, and a great many other fandoms to become a 13 book juggernaut… but after book 13, writer Wilson Taylor mysteriously disappeared. Tommy, desperate to disassociate himself from the infamous boy-wizard character, has become a bitter drunk working the convention circuit for easy money, but going nowhere fast.
Everything changes for him when it is revealed publicly that his life might be a lie – his National Insurance number is faked, pictures of children identified as Tommy are, in fact, others, and there is no record of his mother ever giving birth to him. Things fall apart quickly, but Carey maintains everything with a deft hand and a lot of interesting stylistic changes, going from a normal paneled page onto a page meant to be a screen shot of a blog report on the situation through a series of panels depicting the news cycle coverage of the incidents and into a more muted set of panels that represent scenes from the Tommy Taylor novels and films. Through it all, Carey sets up a lot of what the book will be about – the power of stories. The power of stories to change our lives and shape our beliefs and more. Whether Carey can pull that off remains to be seen, but he’s already proven adept at high-concept epic fantasy in his excellent Lucifer.
Accompanying Carey is another veteran from Lucifer, Peter Gross, who does some great work here. The characters are clear and expressive, the backgrounds are thorough, and the frequent shifts in tone are well-handled. While the art is unspectacular, the quality never falters.
On the whole, Carey and Gross bring a compelling first issue to a series with a great deal of promise. The modern comics fan is reluctant to try his hand at fantasy, but hopefully, The Unwritten will be given plenty of space to breathe. We’ll see whether it lives up to the promise displayed in the first issue, but regardless of what comes later, Carey and Gross did rock solid work here.
– Cal Cleary