“War Stories,” part 3 of 3. Sometimes the closest thing you can find to a friend is your enemy’s enemy. But when Tom tries to enlist the help of Madame Rausch, he discovers that she’s already fighting a war of her own.
The final part of the first story arc of The Unwritten‘s ending rolls in, not concluding the arc at all, but rather setting up the mayhem that is sure to ensue. The Unwritten: Apocalypse #4 brings us back to Wilson’s place, with Bruckner, Miri’s ghost, Wilson himself and the five main characters discussing (or trying not to discuss) plans to take down Pullman and restore (a) reality.
But Tom will have nothing of that, nor will Bruckner or Cosi or Leon, and Wilson is told what he deserves to hear – as Tom sets by himself to meet the only improbable ally he can think of: Madame Rausch, the third, literal, puppeteer alongside Taylor and Pullman. And what do we find out? Rausch knows things. And she’s on no one’s side but her own – or is she?
Mike Carey once again sneaks in some additional subtext in the section titles, this issue plucked from Lewis Carroll’s long nonsense poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. Something big is brewing in the future of the series, with Rausch quite probably returning to throw some splinters in everyone’s plans.
The artwork that accompanies the issue, especially in the scenes towards and during the Madame Rausch encounter, is some dazzling and dizzying work from Peter Gross, with finished once again by Ryan Kelly. The parallels between Mingus and her tail around Tom’s neck and Rausch’s new ‘pet’ were subtle, but growing by the panel. And the pages leading towards ‘Grandmother’ are mindboggling. In the best way possible.
The colours, a dominance of dark grey and greens for this aftermath from last issue, are Chris Chuckry’s task. And does he know how to add reds and yellows when the situation didn’t know it needed them (and that first dusky sky is amazing). There are also some really nice touches by letterer Todd Klein, in the section titles and captions for different characters and settings, while the rest of fonts rest untouched this time.
The cover is by the fantastic Yuko Shimizu, though flipped with last month’s due to ‘Careylessness’; check that review for a look at it, and bask in the blood-soaked glory of the atavistic Pullman on this one, being and becoming the sacrificial ox of dark, deep red.
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
The issue takes a step back from the action-filled conflicts of the previous two parts of ‘War Stories’, replacing the gripping with the chilling. It’s slower, definitely, than the encounter with Pullman and the Rakes. But then, Madame Rausch has always taken her time with things, after all. The dialogue, combined with the artwork in and around the scenes with Madame Rausch in her stronghold, are actually quite terrifying, looking back on the reading. Tom Taylor still believes he is no one’s tool, while being used by everyone around him. An issue of intrigue, strategy, and actually disturbing deals – surprisingly not with the regent of Hell. That will come next month, as we get back to the rabbit that isn’t, Pauly Bruckner.
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #4 is now available in shops and digitally here.