Brrrr. There's no way around it, the latest issue of "The Unwritten" is creepy. Not just a little creepy, either, but intensely so. While this one-off story doesn't feature any of our regular cast, it doesn't need to; it's a look at not only the world of "The Unwritten" but gives us another hint as to just what kind of person Tom Taylor's father Wilson Taylor really is.
On the surface, Willowbank Wood is an idyllic land where animals wear waistcoats, hang out with one another and drink tea, and are invited into Liza's garden to help themselves to vegetables. The thing is, not all the animals are so thrilled with being in Willowbank Wood. Mr. Bun insists that he's not a rabbit, he's a man named Pauly Bruckner, and he's been imprisoned in Willowbank Wood ever since he tried to steal Wilson Taylor's map and got caught in the act. (And yes, that's presumably the same map that Tom Taylor now has in his possession, which doesn't bode well for our hero.) And so, Mr. Bun has decided that enough is enough, and it's time to escape. The only problem is, the fictional storybook world of Willowbank Wood is determined to keep him trapped inside.
"The Unwritten" #12 takes the idea of, "Wouldn't it be great to live in your favorite book?" and turns it into a nasty reality. This sly take on books like A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" series is fun to read, even as it starts to take a distinctly sinister turn once Mr. Bun has decided he's found a way to bring the entire fictional construct crashing down. Mike Carey's clearly having fun with building the ideas that fuel the fictional powers in "The Unwritten" and this story about what happens to undesirable elements within stories has a nasty end, one that will no doubt come back to haunt our protagonists down the line as well.
It also helps that "The Unwritten" #12 is beautifully constructed. Kurt Higgins and Zelda Devon (working off of layouts from Peter Gross) create a beautiful storybook look for the issue, with lush painted colors and an innocent look to all of the characters. Todd Klein gets in on the action too, using lettering to differentiate those who are part of the world and those who are aware of the real world. It's a nice subtle difference, especially for when Pauly confronts his old partner in crime in an attempt to escape, and Nutshell's font starts shifting back and forth. This is a great looking issue, and a perfect usage of a guest art team for a special story.
After twelve issues of "The Unwritten," this has easily become my favorite series running at Vertigo. Carey keeps pulling new and crazy ideas out of his back pocket, and when even a side step story can still have so much punch to it, well, that's a series that has fully realized its potential and then some. I'm absolutely adoring "The Unwritten" and this might be my favorite issue to date. Well done, everyone involved. If you aren't hooked after reading "The Unwritten" #12, I don't know what will.