I’ll be honest, I almost dropped “The Unwritten.” I really, really liked the book’s opening arc where we were introduced to Tom Taylor, the basis (or star?) of a popular series of books written by his (maybe not) father, and a world where the lines between fiction and reality aren’t as solid as he thinks. The standalone fifth issue about Rudyard Kipling was touching and inventive with every member of the creative team delivering stunning work.
But, after that issue, the book slowly began to lose me. Tom was accused of murder, arrested, and the book seemed to meander a bit, even making a stop in a nether world of partly real, partly unreal Nazi Germany. However, that arc ended with the revelation that a new Tommy Taylor book was coming out and last issue -- another standalone like the fifth -- was equally inventive and even more playful. I was convinced to stick with the book for at least the first issue of its second year and I’m glad I did, because it’s a brisk, fast-paced issue that moves things along further than any other issue to date.
Year two of “The Unwritten” kicks off with the most plot-heavy issue to date as schemes are revealed left and right: Tom Taylor being manipulated and used by his seeming allies, enemies closing in on all sides, and him still just as ignorant and clueless as ever. Taylor works better in this sort of story, where he’s at the center of things, but is off camera most of the time as those around him dominant the book. Though, in this story, it looks like he isn’t necessarily at the center of things with the true focus being his supposedly deceased father, Wilson.
All of the world is abuzz with the release of the new Tommy Taylor book and Wilson is possibly going to appear at the launch in London. Tom is counting on it and so is the mysterious organization that’s been working against Tom. They’re the ones that wrote the book and are putting Wilson into a no-win situation: if he reveals himself, he is now a visible target, but, if he doesn’t proclaim the book a fake, they’ve gained access to his power source, his fictional creations. The ideas presented here are strong and intriguing, and supported by surprising character twists.
And, of course, Peter Gross’ art. After three issues of only doing layouts and breakdowns, Gross is back to handle the complete art chores (save coloring) and does his regular first-class job. Gross manages to work with high panel counts and deliver pages that look effortlessly rendered. His art is detailed, but not excessively so, leaning more towards minimal lines. He doesn’t overdraw any scenes or characters, communicating their thoughts and emotions clearly and simply.
Chuck Chuckry’s colors also complement Gross’s drawings, sticking to very clear and strong colors. He presents a slightly muted but realistic color scheme, not getting bogged down in the typical smearing of browns that too many Vertigo books wallow in. He’s not afraid of bright colors when necessary, but mostly sticks to plainer ones that capture the somber, drab mood of the story.
I nearly gave up on “The Unwritten,” but the beginning of its second year is as strong as the beginning of its first. With some basic relationships and foundations laid, Mike Carey and Peter Gross push things forward at a breakneck pace, making for the most exciting issue of the series to date.