Sunday, 9 October 2011

CBR3 Books 71-73. "The Unwritten vol 1-3" by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Publisher: Vertigo
Page count: 462 pages
Date begun: September 7th, 2011
Date finished: September 8th, 2011

Book 71 - Vol 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity - 4 stars
Book 72 - Vol 2: Inside Man - 4 stars
Book 73 - Vol 3: Dead Man's Knock - 4 stars

Tom Taylor is the inspiration behind his father, Wilson Taylor's hugely successful fantasy series about Tommy Taylor (very much in the vein of Harry Potter). His father disappeared at the height of his success, and Tom makes a living appearing at comic book and fantasy conventions. He's bitter about the abandonment, and feels that the only thing his father ever gave him was a head full of useless trivia about literary geography. Tom's life takes a turn for the puzzling and strange, when at a convention, a young woman, Lizzie Hexam, claims Tom is not Wilson's real son, and that he is in fact an impostor.

When he goes to Switzerland, to the villa where his father wrote the Tommy Taylor novels, and where Wilson Taylor was last seen, he ends up being accused of murdering a group of mystery and horror writers, who had been attending a writer's convention at the house. Tom is sent to prison, not realizing that the brutal murders were committed by Pullman, a sinister man who can turn people or things into text by just touching them. In prison, he befriends Savoy, a reporter placed in the prison to write an insider's perspective on prison life and Tom. It is clear that there is a lot more to his father's disappearance, and his own identity than Tom first suspected. He's convinced he saw the flying cat from the Tommy Taylor adventures sitting in a tree when he was arrested, and occasionally,  the magical sigil that protects Tommy in the books, appears as a tattoo on his hand. Lizzie Hexam also clearly knows more than she lets on, and appears to be in contact with the missing Wilson Taylor. Who is Lizzie? Who is Tom really? Why did his dad disappear? Who is the shady organization that framed him for murder, and wants to get to his dad?

I've been a fan of Mike Carey's for a long time. I like his Felix Castor novels, I think his run on Hellblazer was very enjoyable, and I think Lucifer is probably one of the best Vertigo graphic novel series ever, after Sandman and 100 Bullets. So when rave reviews started coming in about The Unwritten, I was eager to check it out. So far, it's great, and while the first three trade paperbacks are thin (collecting the first 18 issues of the comic), there is a lot of story development. I like the riffs on popular young adult fantasy, with elements not just from Harry Potter, but all sorts of clever things. There's obviously a huge amount of literary references in the comic, not just to fantasy, and Carey has interesting things to say about the nature of fame and celebrity and how we interact with books and other media in this day and age. The covers to the comics are all gorgeous, and the art by Peter Gross is very suited to the book. I'm eagerly awaiting volume 4: Leviathan, and can recommend this comic to pretty much anyone interested in clever, entertaining storytelling.

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