The Unwritten #5, “How the Whale Became”
Mike Carey broke in a big way with Lucifer, his spin-off from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – a spin-off that managed to build into one of the most satisfying fantasies in the medium, turning an already well-drawn character into one of comics’ best. Afterwards, he crafted and contributed to a few fascinating Vertigo books – including one that I firmly believe deserves more discussion, Crossing Midnight – and some noble failures, but none took off the way Lucifer had… and he was busy becoming one of Marvel’s superstars, as well as a successful novelist. His big creator-owned-comics success story would have to wait.
When I initially reviewed The Unwritten #1, I said that “Carey and Gross bring a compelling first issue to a series with a great deal of promise,” and then questioned whether the series could live up to such a fantastic opener. Twenty issues in, I think it’s safe to say that the promise has been fulfilled and then some; in fact, it’s probably fair to say that The Unwritten has spent the last two years becoming not just the best Vertigo comic going on today and not just the best fantasy comic on the shelves, but consistently one of the best comics currently being published, period.
The Unwritten #12 features the series’ second stand-alone issue, and much like “How the Whale Became”, “Eliza Mae Hertford’s Willowbank Tales” takes the series to a new level, deepening the world in a significant way while telling an engaging, entertaining story. The Unwritten #12 is also definitely the funniest issue of the series, as Pauly Bruckner, a petty criminal trapped in a children’s story by Eliza Mae Hertford. He tries to assert his will against a powerful narrator, escape the , and take his revenge on the story’s inhabitants, all while reduced to the form of ‘Mr. Bun’, an adorable bunny who goes on adventures in a wonderland of cute anthropomorphic animals.
The art remains spectacular, with Gross joined by Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon on finishes and colors, and it manages to capture the innocence of landscape and the way that Pauly, despite his attempts otherwise, can never truly corrupt it or turn it dark. Humorous and memorable, The Unwritten #12, like “How the Whale Became”, serves as a notice for the rapid-fire shifts of tone, setting, character, and theme the book is capable of without losing sight of what it wants to do or how it wants to do it. The Unwritten continues to cement its status as a modern classic.
– Cal Cleary
As The Unwritten‘s third arc begins, Carey and Gross take us to a profoundly strange place. At the end of “The Inside Man”, Tom and his new companions escaped the rioting prison housing them all by means of magic doorknob. They left in their wake a great deal of devastation, a pair of profoundly tragic deaths and a powerful enemy none of them know anything about. But as always, The Unwritten never takes you where you think you’ll end up, and in this case, that means #10 begins with the three wanderers dropped in a dreamlike version of Hitler’s Germany, learning about an obscure story co-opted by the Nazi propaganda machine.
I have praised the art of The Unwritten before, and while Gross and his team, including Jimmy Broxton and Christ Chuckry here, are getting more confident, the action remains slightly stilted. That said, The Unwritten generally bypasses that my focusing on the drama and the atmosphere, and those are two things Gross & Co. do quite well, a talent that comes in handy in the dreamy half-world of the current arc.
The Unwritten continues to be one of the strongest titles on the shelves. Smart, fast and literate, Carey and Gross have crafted an unpredictable adventure. “Jud Suss”, the newest arc, follows the same pattern as before: even as the story moves forward, the setting continues to get deeper and more elaborate. The issue ends on a shocking moment, but even if it hadn’t, my response would be the same. I can’t wait for more.
– Cal Cleary
The Unwritten #9
The Unwritten #8
#9 marks the conclusion of The Unwritten‘s second arc, and gives the book another huge push forward as Carey and Gross take Tom and Lizzie, along with a few new companions, out of the jail. While the events of “The Inside Man” have certainly wrapped up, once again, Carey and Gross have dramatically changed the book’s status quo, moving forward at a lightning pace towards a conclusion I couldn’t begin to predict. It’s exciting, well-characterized and excellently illustrated – “The Inside Man” did not serve to deepen the world quite as much as “Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity” or the excellent “How the Whale Become”, but it nonetheless illustrated the book’s many strengths while moving yet more pieces into place.
Gross continues to provide some memorable images to the issue, from tragic death to shocking transformation, as he illustrates the chaos Tom’s present has brought to Chadron’s French prison. Gross’ action remains a little static, but otherwise the issue finds him in top form. The Unwritten suggests with every issue that it is a future Vertigo classic in the making. Even if it doesn’t live up to that promise, however, “The Inside Man” definitely ends with a bang.
– Cal Cleary
The Unwritten #8
The Unwritten #8, billed as an Interlude to “The Inside Man” arc currently running, runs concurrently to issues #6-7, this time following the family of Governor Chadron. Chadron’s two children are Tommy Taylor superfans, to the point that the daughter has trouble separating the real world from Taylor’s fictional one, while Chadron himself nurses their fantasies as the last, precious remnants of their childhood innocence. In a continuing theme of The Unwritten, the line between fantasy and reality blurs, and people get hurt.
Gross continues to do excellent work, ably illustrating the children’s world. The Unwritten #8 is an interesting twist on the story, further setting up the climax of the “Inside Man” arc and setting up a potentially tragic endgame. As the cover suggests, this issue follows two children pulled too far into the wonder of Tommy’s world, left to deal with the darker side of a conflict they have no part in. Carey has alluded before to the immense popularity of the Tommy Taylor books, and later to the possible negative effects his arrests might have on the fans, but this is the first time he’s dealt with either issue directly. The results are suitably chilling.
The Unwritten #6