TCR: THE UNWRITTEN plays with big ideas about the influence of story telling

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Peter stared in awe at the Gossamoks’ bodies, lying around the ancient stone altar in twisted heaps. It was not the fact that they were dead that astonished him: it was their solidity. In life the creatures had been half-gost, half devil, but Tommy’s spell had made them entirely solid, had dragged them flailing and screaming into the physical world, and the trauma of that crossing had utterly destroyed them.

The Unwritten, by Mike Carey with the art of Peter Gross, is a story within a story. The first story in this comic is referencing a book by Wilson Taylor. Taylor wrote a long series of fantasy novels of cult-like popularity levels about a young boy wizard. (Think Harry Potter-esk.) Wilson Taylor has also mysteriously disappeared.

Tommy Taylor is both Wilson’s son and the basis of the books’ main character. He is an icon and the obsession of many people. But, as was stated above, Wilson Taylor has disappeared, presumably of his own free will and Tom (Tommy in the books) does not hide his abandonment issues well.

At a “Tommy Con” session with the press, a young grad student stands up and asks Tom some questions. Questions about his origins and his childhood, for which he has no answer, unwittingly open a Pandora’s box. The media has a field day, quickly figuring out that Tommy Taylor has no traceable childhood until he was debuted to the country as the inspiration for his “father’s” books.

Feeling scammed all these years, the fans begin to riot as more and more info comes out pointing to the fact that Tom was not the legitimate son of Wilson Taylor – just a well played pawn in a PR scheme. So Tom drinks his way through the tough time as mobs of angry fans constantly congregate outside his hotel with picketing fences and loud jeering chants.

He is about to skip town when he is suddenly hit over the head and kidnapped. When he comes to he sees that his kidnapper is not a disgruntled fan. It is the hideous, evil, and quite insane Count Ambrosio.

A character right out of his father’s books.

The Unwritten #1 is not a new title, but it has been sitting on my shelf patiently waiting to be read for a while now. After reading, I decided it was review-worthy, despite its age, for a TCR. It originally came out in 2009 and presently there are a total of 24 issues conveniently collected into 4 volumes.

I loved the instant draw into this comic which begins right in the middle of one of the Tommy Taylor books. Once I was sufficiently drawn into the fantasy, the comic switched into the primary story which takes place in the modern, unmagical world. As icing on the cake, I was amused at how it poked fun at childhood fantasy classics like Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia (at least it seemed rather Narnia-ish as well.)

The main story about the real, adult Tom, drags on for a while. The main character is the whiny and rather useless sort. But I suppose he was truly meant to be whiny and useless, so the author did a good job of fitting him into that role to the point where the reader asks “how is that the guy who this awesome character is based?” But while the plot is slightly predicable, it plays with interesting themes that I would not have expected. Stories, Carey alludes, are an obsession of man kind.

Tell the women burned as witches. The Rosenbergs.. Sacco and Vanzetti. Tell the martyrs of all the regions and the millions who fell in all the wars since time began. STORIES ARE THE ONLY THING WITH DYING FOR!”

And to the author, religion is just another story. Religious extremists begin to hail Tommy as the messiah. I found this religious undercurrent fascinating. In the back of the book there is an interview with Mike Carey and Peter Gross where they state:

Everybody wants to see the big picture, and everyone suspects there’s an even bigger picture behind it that they’re missing – a story behind a story, a face behind the veil. That’s our starting point in The Unwritten: The story behind all stories, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the latest webisodic micro-epic, by way of Frankenstein, Moby Dick and the Just So Stories; the big secret conspiracy that unified all the world’s literatures. We’re not asking you to believe. We’re not promising enlightenment. In fact, we think you should probably see the experience as a kind of inoculation. After reading The Unwritten, there are a whole lot of stories you’ll never be able to swallow again.”

Well. After reading that quote I am certainly more interested in seeing how this story progresses. Sounds like it gets more interesting.

If you just want dip a toe into the series, like I did, to see how it feels to you then The Unwritten #1 printing by Vertigo for just $1.00. Or you can go to www.vertigocomics.com, where all their #1 issues for all their series are free to download. Yup, you got it. Like most potential addictions, first one’s free.

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