Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Unwritten v3: Dead Man's Knock

I've made no secret that I love Mike Carey's work. His X-Men comics are a wonderful reminder of what I loved about comics during my childhood, and his concepts always feel unique. That said, his work on the Unwritten has to be some of the best storytelling I've ever seen in comics.

Carey doesn't take it easy on the reader. This is a story that KNOWS it is a story, so the reader can't take anything for granted. You always have to keep in mind tropes and manipulations that Carey or the protagonists might be pulling. Which parts of the story are real? Well, none of it of course, but Carey actually admits this and lets the reader define a lot of what is happening. This is most clearly laid out in the Lizzie Hexam origin issue, a choose-your-own-adventure type story with multiple endings. If you aren't careful, Lizzie doesn't end up joining up with Tommy Taylor, she ends up drugged into a stupor in a mental hospital. Choose wisely! (I'll briefly mention that depending on the path you take, quite a few odd occurrences from earlier in the series get explained.)

The main plot moves along nicely too, with Wilson Taylor, Tommy's Dad, finally making his on-panel appearance. Wilson clearly has some sort of destiny in mind for Tommy, but Tommy isn't ready for it. And it doesn't seem like Wilson's got a lot more chances to make this work. This trade shows the big release of the 14th Tommy Taylor novel and all the wonderful maneuvering Wilson and his friends have done to take down the cabal that secretly runs the world.

In such a word-heavy and convoluted story, Peter Gross's art would be easy to overlook. But don't. It's his panel layouts and rapid reality changes that make this story work, and he does a fantastic job leading the reader through multiple worlds and perceptions of reality.

The concepts are unclear and challenging, but if you've got the time and interest, this is an intensely rewarding series.


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