The Unwritten TPB Vol. 3: Dead Man’s Knock

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Comics

At the end of my review of the first Unwritten trade paperback I wrote:

The Unwritten appears to be genuinely interested in the power of narratives to shape the real world as well as their fictional one. This could be one of the many cases where authors promise more depth than they can deliver. But at least [Mike] Carey and [Peter] Gross have the ambition to make the promise.

It’s been a while coming, but in this third volume The Unwritten does finally seem to be delivering on that promise.

For those who haven’t been keeping up, here’s the basic setup: Tom Taylor may or may not be the incarnation of Tommy Taylor, the main character in his vanished father’s fantasy novels. He’s pursued by a worldwide cabal that twists storytelling to keep people placated and powerless. That was the situation in the first volume, and the second volume largely treaded water. The cabal was still after Tommy; meanwhile various metafictional games and pastiches were going on and Tom didn’t understand how he related to his fictional alter ego or what his father wanted him to do.

The one promising tidbit came when Lizzie, the woman sent by his father to guide Tom, refers to him as “the Logos—the word made flesh.”

In Volume 3, that religious echo is amplified to a full song. The long-awaited fourteenth book in the Tommy Taylor saga is released on the same night its author, Tom’s father, is murdered. In it Tommy dies and is reborn to deliver a message of universal forgiveness and love. The fictional character spawns a real-life religion, with online fans claiming that Tom Taylor never died in a Volume 2 attack we know he did in fact survive, and that he will return as a savior, as Tommy.

Look, I’m a Jew, and pretty much an atheist. I still like well-done Christ imagery. Especially since the implication of Mike Carey turning Tommy into a Christ figure is that the original Christ story—the foundation myth of Christianity, at least as it’s currently understood—is a distortion perpetrated by a cabal of capitalists who run the world.

Now, the idea that modern Christians have gone astray from the goodhearted teachings of Jesus is not a new one by any means. But Carey is handling it adroitly. More to the point, adding that theme to the storyline of The Unwritten adds the urgency I’d been waiting for.

The pastiches are still there, of course, and they’re as smartly done as ever. One of the issues collected in this trade tells the life history of a woman experiencing a mental breakdown as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, a terrific marriage of form and content.

Only now there’s quite a bit more going on outside of the pastiches, enough to make The Unwritten a title you really should be reading.

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