After last month’s surprisingly informative one-shot, we’re back to following Tom Taylor, possibly the living incarnation of fames fictional boy-wizard Tommy Taylor, in the aftermath of the book’s opening arc. Following the slaughter at the Villa Diodati, which nearly claimed Taylor himself, Tom is on his way to prison, to be tried for the murder of the group of writers who had met at the Villa for a horror convention. With the world turned against him and his name ruined, Tommy is left defenseless in a famous French prison.
Carey and Gross give the story’s small details a loving attention. As in early issues, we get snippets of the news, blogger reactions, forum posts and more in an effort to show the effect the plot is having around the world, the most fascinating of which comes in a late-issue scene between the children of Tom’s jailor and their father as he, nearly in tears, endeavors to hide from them the truth of what’s become of their hero. Despite taking the time both to paint a picture of the state of the world underpinned with small, emotional moments, the issue also manages to move the plot along nicely thanks to Lizzie Hexam’s shocking new orders and an excellent cliffhanger.
Peter Gross continues to turn in fine work, alternating with ease between the dreamy fictional segments in which we visit “The Song of Roland” or Tommy Taylor’s clash with Count Ambrosio and the ‘real’ world. The issue introduces a number of new characters, each of which manages to be distinct and recognizable without becoming cartoonishly exaggerated. It was far from Gross’s strongest work, but he remains an excellent fit for the title.
The Unwritten is Vertigo’s first new must-read ongoing in years, a smart examination of the power of fiction that also serves as a fun, intriguing adventure. The book manages to confound my expectations at just about every turn, but it isn’t frustrating. Instead, there is a sense of something grand being laid out, one small piece at a time. I can’t rightly say what The Unwritten is building towards, but if each issue is as enjoyable as this one, I can’t really say I’m worried.
– Cal Cleary