There are a lot of things to like about "The Unwritten," Mike Carey and Peter Gross's comic about the secret world of literature. But as of this issue, I think what's standing out the most for me is just how incredibly creepy the book has turned out, even when it has some of the most common-place scenes opening the issue.
After all, a group of people talking about books? Not that creepy. And yet, Carey's "committee" manages just that. Their dissection of the world's events and deciding how they'll be viewed, the investigation into the new Tommy Taylor novel, the demands for a vote... all have sinister undertones attached to them, and without any metaphorical beard stroking or maniacal laughs involved. "The Unwritten" has shown us just how nasty these characters are, so when the book actually does start bringing in the nasty, you know things are getting bad. Execution pits, signs from the mysterious Sibyl, and piles of bones are just a few of the elements that Care brings into this new issue, and by the time we're done seeing the committee there's a thick air of doom hanging over the entire group. Things have changed, and almost assuredly not for the better.
It's because of that Carey can push Tom, Lizzie, and Richie into the background for an issue, despite Tom being the lead character of the title. Tom's own interactions with his alter ego this issue are important, and seeing glimpses of the new Tommy Taylor novel proves to be intriguing, but they're not the focus this month, and that's all right. The end of the issue sets them up for the next phase of their travels, and there's enough promise there to keep just about any reader eager to see what happens next. Considering most readers were almost certainly hoping the book would shift back over to the committee whenever Tom and company appeared this issue, to still have Tom able to pull the attention back to him in the final panel is a nice feat.
Gross' art, as always, continues to excel. I love that he's able to tweak his style in small, subtle ways to differentiate between our main characters and the world of Tommy Taylor, with its clean and glowing white character designs and stripped down faces. Gross is also able to visually link the different sections of the book together, with a look into the pit getting echoed on the next page with the circles of words forming a pit of their own for Tom to plunge into. And even something as simple as dropping a piece of paper is done expertly, the panels descending like a staircase into the depths as it follows the action going down, down, down.
"The Unwritten" is one of Vertigo's strongest series, and this issue is no exception to that rule. Mike Carey and Peter Gross have produced a tremendous hit, the kind of comic where you want to buy a new issue each month because you simply can't wait for the collection. If you aren't reading "The Unwritten" you really need to fix that problem right now.