In the ruins of a post-literary world, Richie and Lizzie go in search of their lost friend Tom Taylor. But to find him, they’ll have to venture into the most dangerous place on Earth: London.
If in the previous issue, the first of this ‘second volume’ of The Unwritten, the story was focused on Tom Taylor’s resurrection and return to the so-called, apparently-so real world, The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2 is about what happened to that world in Tom’s absence. And so we return to the rest of the cast, now comprising vampire/journalist Richie Savoy, word-made-flesh Lizzie Hexam, true Tommy fans Cosi and Leon Chadron, an aside on Mr. Armitage, stuck in a limbo of his own, and devious demiurge Wilson Taylor himself.
The latter, and the initial sequence he is a part of, is the section that stands out the most in terms of re-setting the whole story: Mike Carey (and Peter Gross) drop the readers into a ‘post-literary world’ – possibly my new favourite concept – giving very little clue as to what has actually happened, other than “all worlds are now this one”. All of them. Reality and fiction(s) are all one and the same, and navigating through it takes more than just a map.
Carey shows some great knowledge, research and humour in deploying the secondary literary characters in the issue, and carefully re-establishes and shows off Lizzie’s true nature and powers, along with the children’s unwavering faith and strength deriving from it. Never forgetting Taylor’s meddling, tentacled words.
Peter Gross shows off his storytelling, too, through some truly excellent panel work and composition throughout the whole issue. From the Prologue’s twisting borders, to the full page scenes with panels contained and scattered within them, the story Carey’s words tell is captured and ordered (if at all possible). Horrors and references to other artwork are abundant in the panels, creating the shattered scenery of the ‘post-literary’ reality
Colouring duties are split between regular Chris Chuckry and Lee Loughridge (whose work I believe is in the Prologue, splendidly dark with one candle as the sole source of light), and is impressively executed: shifting from the greyness of London to the muted warmth of parchment fire and the character’s clothes, we get a constant dusty feeling about the new reality. Todd Klein had a busy time with the lettering, with a handful of soundwords taking place in later sequences, but mostly flipping between chapter headings, Taylor’s typing, and the odd flying cat meowr.
The cover is, as always, Yuko Shimizu’s creation. And it’s stunning, with its lack of background and triumphant, powerful Lizzie standing among the seeds and thoughts of fiction, ejected from the Book – the cause of the end of the world, and the only thing that can keep it alive.
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
The issue does not feel as mind-bendingly and blindingly complex or powerful as the first one, but rather is used to set the scene, and the world in which the series might (unless even more things happen in the first page of #3) take place, in a very careful and twisted way. It can be a slow burner, but by the third read I appreciated all the nuances I could get out of both the artwork and the literary references in the writing. It’s nice to see 17th century literature in a contemporary piece of work, and the conceptual framework is extremely intriguing. A world – all the worlds have just ended and conflated into one; there is bound to be chaos. And there is, indeed, and with it ink and bleeding borders, a seemingly unrelated prologue, and shattered words on the page. Proceed with caution.
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2 is now available in shops and digitally here.