Tag: The Unwritten

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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The Unwritten TPB Vol. 1

by on Jan.11, 2010, under Comics

At first I thought The Unwritten was okay, nothing special. A cute little metafictional story about Tommy Taylor, a guy who may or may not be the incarnation of the main character in his vanished father’s fantasy novels. This failed to grab me in part because those fantasy novels seemed to be a lamer version of Harry Potter crossed with the Hardy Boys, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to notice how dumb they were.

A few issues in, though, it becomes quite clear that Mike Carey and Peter Gross know exactly what they’re doing. A group of writers meets in the house where Frankenstein was conceived, and after a few pages to remind us of the power of Mary Shelley’s work, we meet her literary heirs:

I’m Sonia Taft, creator of vampire detective Medley Silver. Sexy undead chick solves crimes in the big city. It’s noir fusion.

I’m Simon Grove. I write cosmic metaphysical horror. Most of my work comes from the Lovecraft estate. I’m finishing off three novels that he left in note form.

My name is Lauren Sedgwick, but I write as Lauren Snow. I’m just finishing a big magic realist psycho-gothic epic. Umm–not yet commissioned.

‘The name’s Bond, James Bond.’ Nah, I’m Stanley Jardine. I do post-modern, self-referential slasher horror. Lots of blood, but–you know, played for laughs.

I’m James Mortenson, and since you’re thinking it, I’m happy to say it. I write torture porn, which is horror unencumbered by the demands of plot or character. The real deal.

Later, the group is hunted through the house by a scythe-wielding maniac. “It does no good to run,” he declares.

And it does no good to hide. But I know what it’s like, your brain shuts down, and you follow your instincts. Or at least you think you do. But you know what you’re really doing? When you flee through the night, or crawl into your little bolthole? You know what’s really guiding you? Controlling you? Pushing you on? Genre conventions.

That last line is delivered after he cuts in two a woman hiding behind a curtain, which is of course two references in one: horror movies and Hamlet.

And then Tommy Taylor isn’t even in the last issue. It’s all told from the point of view of Rudyard Kipling, who explains how the shadowy conspiracy that sent forth the scythe killer made him a literary success for their own reasons, and how he ultimately rebelled by writing the Just So Stories. For which they destroyed his family.

In other words, 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 Carey and Gross have the ambition to make the promise.

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