It’s the perfect jumping on point, as Tom Taylor is stranded at the beginning of all creation! Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world’s stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality — and all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined can’t stop him. But there’s a toll on the road that may be too high for him or anyone to pay…
When the story arc of The Unwritten Fables, and with it Volume 1, came to a close, the world ended. In fact, all the worlds ended. Fictions, realities, imaginations, readerships, textworlds all finally shattered after a recurring mention and succession of events throughout the series after volume 6, ‘The War of Words’, and throughout volumes 7 and 8, ‘The Wound’ and ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ (released in TPB this month).
And Tom/Tommy Taylor was at the centre of it all. Which is where we find him now, as he is recreated and reimagined from nothingness and words. Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ story brings Tom to different stories of death and renewal, of childhood and innocence, of rebirth, revelations and knowledge – in search of his own identity, he inhabits the dawn of time, Wonderland, Narnia, Aesop’s Fables, The Jungle Book, Rose Cottage and The Hundred Acre Wood, debating whether his own reality is reality at all, and where that knowledge will take him.
Carey’s writing is wonderfully executed, with the highlight found in the palindromic poetic passage in the Narnia scenes, and some perfectly appropriate human reactions from Tom to the mindfuckery going on.
Peter Gross is both co-plotter and artist on the series, and takes the idea of (re)genesis and (re)creation the visual sense as Tom proceeds through the different realities. From the early almost black and white pages which contain a trace of the blue pencilwork beneath the inking, and making the marks more ‘real’ as the story progresses. He imitates other artists’ styles according to the story, too, such as John Tenniel in Wonderland, while keeping elements of his own take.
Chris Chuckry’s colours and lack thereof really made it feel like a creative process in stages, starting from the light sepia tones of the beginnings, gradually shifting into more saturated colours, once again mirroring the style that the story is using as setting. Todd Klein’s lettering, while most Vertigo readers will be used to by now, has some really creative solutions in the different sections, especially in the sound-words used in the wild geese section and the first page’s DNA sequence. The issue’s title, ‘Bestiary’, is a delight, too, with each letter shaped as an animal and in light pastel colours, in distinct contrast with the black and white page it finds itself on.
As for Yuko Shimizu’s cover, there is little to be said other than it is, as usual, absolutely stunning. Tom coming out of a dead cicada’s shell, with the background of a grim, bloodied London skyline captures the entire issue in one image, in its composition, subject and colours.
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
So what do I think of this new beginning? Excellent. The plot is getting back to what The Unwritten was about when it first appeared, without having to work within a universe that fitted it, Fables, but still felt a little short on the sleeves.
The way in which all creative aspects conflate into the telling of this story is superbly done, with both the visual and the textual elements blending perfectly to tell the story (stories?). Tom’s return to his ‘actual’ reality leaves us with a number of questions as to what has happened during his absence, and where the story may go from here. But for the next month, I feel I have enough to go re-read in preparation. I suppose.. the end begins here?
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is now available in shops and digitally here.