Vertigo’s never really steered me wrong.
It was with that long-running trust I picked up the first volume of The Unwritten (collecting the first six issues of the series as written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross) in January 2010. Thankfully, I’d somehow managed to avoid much of the press surrounding the graphic novel’s release. I went in knowing little of the plot, apart from the story centering, in some way, around literature and writing. I wasn’t expecting meta-fiction or magical realism. I wasn’t expecting anything to be honest, but received another engaging and thought-provoking story from DC’s mature-minded imprint.
So, while I more than enjoyed The Unwritten’s first volume, entitled Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, there was a part of me that hesitated when picking up the following installment. Released in August 2010, the second volume collects issues 6 through 12 of the ongoing monthly series. It picks up shortly after the first volume’s conclusion when a truth about the series and its subject is confirmed for the reader. In picking up volume two, there was a small part of me that feared too much had been answered at the end of Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity. But the “how” and “why” of Tom’s existence are further embellished in this second graphic novel, more than just a small expansion of what was set out in the first book.
Imagine if Harry Potter were based on a real person. That’s the first and one of the most important pieces of the story. Tom Taylor is a twenty-something who travels the convention circuit signing books written by his father – books in the “Tommy Taylor” series. The fictional set of books is a thinly veiled send-up of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter work, with titles like “Tommy Taylor and the Golden Trumpet.” But The Unwritten is more than just Potter parody. It turns out, Tom Taylor wasn’t the inspiration for his father’s books. He somehow actually is Tommy Taylor. The book’s made him real. Or his father wrote him into reality. Or there’s something else at play, but only hinted at by Carey and Gross. This is where the second portion of the anthology, entitled Inside Man, takes the secret which was confirmed at the end of the first volume and pushes it further. Tom Taylor is fiction made reality, but he can also make reality with fiction.
This second volume is also when The Unwritten begins to unfold with Carey weaving in other fiction and literary histories, posing questions about what actually contributes to the creation of our favorite books. At its core, The Unwritten is a series detailing the construction of reality. More specifically, it’s a series of how stories shape reality and the immortal forces selecting which stories are allowed to be told.
Like television shows, most comics weave small story arcs into larger ongoing plots. Frustrating, though, is The Unwritten‘s rushing forward at the end of this second installment. By the collection’s conclusion, things are snowballing for Tom. Questions and issues raised at the start of the series still have yet to be fully answered, which will hopefully make the final payoff all that much more satisfying. As disheartening as such a lengthy arc can be, it does make for great reading, despite the time between seasons, so-to-speak. March of this year brings The Unwritten’s third trade paperback, Dead Man’s Knock, from Vertigo collecting issues 13 through 17.Visit: Mike Carey | Peter Gross | Vertigo
Purchase: Powell’s Books | Amazon