You may have noticed, but the first two issues of The Unwritten, the new Vertigo series from Mike Carey and Peter Gross, were relatively highly praised by me on this very site. It’s almost inevitable in a serialized medium that there will be a stumbling block somewhere along the line, an issue that just doesn’t click, but thankfully, The Unwritten #3 not only avoids this curse, but manages to improve and elaborate upon many of the most intriguing elements of the early issues without sacrificing quality in any area.
Tom Taylor, who may or may not be the grown version of fictionalized boy-wizard Tommy Taylor come to life, continues to be drawn into a surreal world while investigating his own muddled past. Pursued by the mysterious, deadly Pullman, this issue finds Tommy at an infamous mansion – the one he grew up in, yes, but also the mansion in which Mary Shelley first thought up Frankenstein. Tommy is joined once again by Lizzie Hexam, a graduate student who seems to know more than she lets on, and a circle of horror writers at a weekend retreat to the mansion to discuss the impact of Shelley’s most famous creation on modern horror. Though this is perhaps the least action-oriented issue of the series so far, Carey does an excellent job setting up the next issue without letting things get dull or repetitive.
Gross continues to be an apt collaborator for Carey. Though this issue features none of the flashes to the Tommy Taylor books, it does open with a wonderfully illustrated scene from Shelley’s Frankenstein. Gross can still capture the various shifts in atmosphere of Carey’s books, a skill that Carey used well in this month’s homage to the horror genre.
Carey and Gross have created a number of interesting characters and used them to populate a fascinating story. This issue sees us branching out just a little from the meta-plot, as it hardly touches on the idea that Tom may be the boy-wizard grown up, but it also gives us an example of the narrative flexibility the premise has, and the deft hand with which the creative teams can pull off the changes of pace.
– Cal Cleary