This single-issue story interlude, “When Rabbit Howls” stars reader-favorite character Pauly Bruckner. Sometimes it’s hard to be a man – especially if all your recent experience is of being a rabbit. Pauly is back, and having his wishes come true may be just the start of his problems.
After the end of its first arc, The Unwritten: Apocalypse pauses for an issue to look at the character that wasn’t intended to be: Pauly Bruckner, ex-regent of hell, ex-murderer, ex-rabbit – currently in the middle of a severe identity crisis, and adjusting to his new, uncomfortable reality.
An uncomfortableness that he realises is not due to the post-literary world outside, where a murderer can thrive, and in fact, does, very easily at that. But there is something bigger, something triggered by the outside that brings up what is simmering inside of him. And he speaks to may-or-may-not-be-there Dr Wise Old Owl, sometimes quite uncomfortably moving for the reader.
Writer Mike Carey gives us a fascinating look at Pauly’s character, in a very different vein from what we’ve seen before from him as Mr Bun in Willowbank, on the Staircase or even in Hell. And he gets his voice perfectly, really revelling in the non-filtered language, attitude and colourful turns of phrase of this bad bunny.
The artwork, taking a leaf from The Unwritten OGN, Tommy Taylor and The Ship That Sank Twice, is taken care of by both Peter Gross and Al Davison, respectively on the layouts for the full book, the ‘narrator’ perspective that opens and closes the issue (and one of the most unsettling brown owls I have seen in a while), and on Pauly’s tale in between. And believe me, if Carey got the voice right, Davison does wonders with the looks. Between some truly creative panelwork to finish Gross’ layouts in the narrated flashback and some gruesome sequences, Pauly’s murderous nature finds a fitting outlook on the page. And Gross’ sections does not shy away either, with an excellent rabbit-to-human tranformation early on.
The transition between the two sections is made almost seamless by Chris Chuckry’s excellent soft hues of colour, keeping the grainy, gritty, worn-out look on most of the characters, Pauly and Wilson Taylor in particular. Only a couple of effects for Todd Klein’s lettering work to really shine trough, but the jagged title and coda fonts really capture the tone of the book.
In addition, the hauntigly beautiful cover by Yuko Shimizu is.. well, haunting, and beautiful. There are echoes of the first one of the Apocalypse run, but with Pauly’s trying to painfully emerge from the rabbit shell, trapped and tied to a tree by a thin, blue ribbon. Read in it what you will, before and after the story inside.
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
As far as interludes go, I’m not sure this was really an interlude. The issue does pause and look at Pauly’s troubled mind, wishes and identity, but, much like the Mme Rausch appearances in #4, he is being set up for something promisingly very big, and stunningly so with Al Davison’s visual work. I have the distinct feeling that Carey and Gross are playing with their characters (and readers), some of whom in particular are playing with all the others, as the messed-up chessboard is slowly but steadily being laid out. Bruckner is going to return even less in control of what he thinks he is and wants, and Dr W.O.O. is.. you’ll have to find out, won’t you?
(Meanwhile Leviathan, quietly, watches.)
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #5 is now available in shops and digitally here.