Tag Archives: Peter Gross

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #12

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Synopsis
FINAL ISSUE

“And I awoke, and found me here…”

Wilson Taylor delivers the apocalypse the only way he knows how: at his son Tom’s expense. It’s the end of the world as we know it. But there’s no need to worry because it’s just a story. Isn’t it? Don’t miss the extra-sized conclusion to the fan-favorite Vertigo series!

Story
How do you write the ending to a story about stories ending the world? How do you wrap up meta-narratives, multiple plots, twisted storylines, intertextualities and gigantic apocalyptic schemes? According to Mike Carey and Peter Gross, you don’t. According to Tom Taylor, you let someone else do it for you. And the two, unsurprisingly, are the one and the same.
The third part of ‘Annals of Comparative Literature’ brings the arc, the Apocalypse chapter and the whole The Unwritten series to a close, and does so with a wonderful flourish of the pen (or other authorial tool) on the page (see previous bracket), and a refreshingly, candidly self-aware reflection on itself as a medium and a series. Characters live up to their descriptions, but not further, stories reach their conclusion, but not more than that, and most of all, the real puppeteers are exposed, reversed, unveiled and dragged down for one last time, in a surprisingly really quite moving sequence.
In the meantime, Carey also manages to voice several thoughts on the comics medium, its relationship to literature, the acceptance of it and experimental fiction in a wider literary canon. There are more quotations, explorations of dangling plots, voice shifts and some fantastic Pauly Bruckner contributions that definitely left me with a satisfied smirk on my face.

Art
Peter Gross, in his co-plotting guise, really sets his skills loose on the script, adapting, twisting and capturing the end of the world that was, what came before, what came between and what will come with the turn of the page. Visual references abound, to external contexts (the human evolution panel is fantastically apt and deployed) and to other moments in the series. I am curious as to whether another artist worked on finished in certain sections of the issue, as no one else is credited but there are some definite callbacks to the Ship That Sank Twice OGN finishes and some of the work by Vince Locke and Al Davison – regardless, the effect is stunning, and the care and detail going into Wilson Taylor in particular is especially moving, throughout the entire issue.
Of course, the visual pleasure of the book, as always, would not be possible without the fantastic chromatic work of Chris Chuckry, who performs double plus good in this super-sized issue. Working with such complex layouts and basic patterns as deployed by Gross’ linework cannot be easy, at all, but once again, for one last time, he delivers. Todd Klein’s lettering performance in this issue was stellar. There are some many fonts, so much personality imbued in each and every other scene, due to its framing, to its context, to its moment in the narrative timeline and the ‘real’ timeline, that only one of the masters of the craft could have tackled it so magnificently.
And finally, but in no means as the least deserving of credit, is the mind behind the hands behind the face of the series as a whole, Yuko Shimizu. I have spoken to several comics readers who have not yet been absorbed by The Unwritten, but they all know Shimizu’s fantastic covers, and we all agreed on the poignant, powerful, sad and beautifully composed final cover, with Tom fading into – or out of – a book (you decide after reading).

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
This is the actual end of the line, for a series that has followed me through the entirety of my higher education (sudden realisation, that). This is a final issue that manages to acknowledge what it is doing, that what it is doing is wonderfully original, is not afraid of saying so, and yet does not brag about it or inflate it to the point of exhaustion. This is an issue about the power of writing, of books, of comic books, the limits and constraints of canon, the loopholes that emerge from it. This is the story of characters trying to lose their author, in order for the story to continue its life. This is the story of a reader turned writer, unable to convince people and himself of a fictional reality, a world that never happened, never existed, and never will be – but who chooses to write it down anyway.

And in those words, in those images, lies the unspoken, unwritten power.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #12 is available in shops and digitally here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #11

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Synopsis
The end is near, and the final battle is about to be fought – and Tom is back where he never wanted to belong. But if he’s going to die tomorrow, then tonight he’s got some unfinished business – with the most derivative boy wizard in all the worlds.

Story
Despite the lateness of this review, I find myself relieved by the fact that the final issue is still a little while away. It allows a re-reading of the eleventh chapter of the Apocalypse (The Unwritten), and time to think about where the story may end up, well, ending. And punches are definitely not pulled.
Writer Mike Carey takes the first part of this issue to focus, on a slightly slower pace, on the relationship between Tommy and Tom, between Count Ambrosio and possibly Pullman, between the major players of the stories so far, keeping true to the ‘Annuals of Comparative Literature’ arc title. But the main focus, across both parts of the plot, are the nature of evil, and its close connection to guilt. And unsurprisingly, though very craftily done, Pullman is right in the middle of it.
Definitely picking up from issue #10 in terms of story beats, emotional crafting and overall narrative weaving, the penultimate issue in the whole run of the series has some excruciatingly painful moments, reminiscent of the darkest children books, and some fantastic dialogue. And I have no idea where it will go in the finale, at all.

Art
Once more, artist Peter Gross has full responsibility for the basic visual rendition of the story in the book, and the job he does is magnificent. Character-wise, Ambrosio, Pullman and Madame Rausch are as terrifying as ever, and the Leviathan lurking in the background is a wonderful touch. But from a structural point of view, Gross shines even brighter – one long sequence in particular, featuring all the major characters is stunningly devised, and the panel borders blur even further when the Taylors are involved.
Chris Chuckry’s colours fully reflect the bleakness of the script, too, with only the first page showing some well-needed vibrancy, and an otherwise abundance of stone, grit, murky water and haunting reds to paint over the panels. And in the hungry eyes of the creepier Leviathan spawn. Deserves equal praise, of course, is letterer Todd Klein, populating the page, minds and panels with sounds, personal speech fonts, and an eery sense of words only just holding together
The cover, as always by the fantastic Yuko Shimizu, is terrifying, beautiful and really touching. Not only does it have the traditional Pietà structure, and bleak colours of the interiors, I dare you to look at it again once the story is over, and not feel a pang of pain at the death(s) in the book. Go on.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
Remember, if you can, all the worst moments from the best children books you have read. Condense them through the filter of a twisted horror writer with a literary vein. See them play out in front of your eyes, rather than just in your head. You’ll have a vague sense of what Carey and Gross have plotted and done in this issue. And remember that those are some of the best books because of those worst moments. And that is nothing, compared to where the story continues, and begins to end, in the painful aftermath of things being Unwritten.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #11 is available in shops and digitally here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #10

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Synopsis
In the first chapter of the final UNWRITTEN story art, “Annals of Comparative Literature,” Pullman has the maanim, and the end is as nigh as it’s ever going to get. But even magic trumpets have rules, and this one has a homing instinct – and there’s only one place in all the worlds of fiction where it can do its apocalyptic thing. Which just happens to be the one place Tom is afraid to go…

Story
After one issue setting the stage, in somewhat of a breather pause, The Unwritten starts hurtling towards its conclusion in ‘Annals of Comparative Literature’, exposing once again its core themes, as explicitly as possible. Bonds are tested, reality even more so, stories need their characters, and the parallels between all the plots take centre stage – only for everything to change once more.
Mike Carey returns to his earlier dabblings with literature, writing Tom and his cast through the end of last issue back into post-literary London, bringing back the Christopher Robin conundrum as a last resort for the main cast of Tom, Lizzie and Savoy to save the world before bedtime. But Pullman is also trying his best to end his own misery, and the world with it. And everyone encounters bigger obstacles, slithering in the dark, shaded backgrounds.
The issue is intentionally slower in pace, as it condenses the entire beginning of the final arc of the series (!), bringing back multiple threads and strands from The Unwritten and Apocalypse into two tight spots. And yet, the sense of impending doom, of spilt ink and blood to come, of betrayal and jeopardy and danger are so tense that not even gleeful vampires, boy wizards, nor swearing rabbits can help shift the sense of unease.

Art
Peter Gross bears the bulk of the linework this month, and he does a wondrous job of mirroring the script in the layouts and panel arrangements on the pag. Particularly worth highlighting is the Wilson/Pullman double page spread, showing just how similar the two characters might be after all, and how the situation is pretty much identical. Savoy reaching through panel borders, lines bending and adjusting to punches thrown, a sinister splash page and some great perspective are just examples of the storytelling at work here.
Of course though, the differences between the converging parallels of the story could not be as clearly marked if it were not for Chris Chuckry’s colours: the contrast is more obvious towards the end of the issue, but the shift in tones between one side of London and Pullman’s HQ (and more) are fantastically placed, as is the saturation chosen for the flashbacks. Additionally, we get to see some more of Todd Klein’s handiwork, from the crumbling title page to how some characters bend their own speech to his will and fonts, and more sound effects are materialised in the spaces between realities.
Yuko Shimizu brings another superb cover piece to the series, highlighting all the points made by co-plotters Gross and Carey about Tom’s identity and his father’s power over him on an ominously red background, grounded in ink and writing. The whirlwind of ghost pages justify Tom’s terrified expression, but it’s Wilson’s sombre concentrated face that is particularly unsettling.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
As the first issue of the final arc of the entire series, #10 is another wonderful piece of the puzzle, with some extremely dark and unsettling scenes and interactions, especially towards the latter part of the book. Gross and Chuckry’s visual work are phenomenally well executed on Carey’s script, and there is one page that still has me smirking, and another that shows off the creators’ twisted sense of cruelty towards their characters that bode well (?) for the full-on, impending Apocalypse.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #10 is now available in shops and digitally here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #9

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Synopsis
The three immortals – Wilson, Rausch and Pullman – are moving toward their respective endgames. But when was the last time they were all in the same room together? Answer: half a century ago, in Oxford, England. And the reasons for what they’re doing now can be found in what they said to each other back then…

Story
The penultimate story arc of The Unwritten: Apocalypse ended in ‘Sang’ Part III (last issue) with multiple endings and dazzlingly knotted plots and threads, in what is increasingly becoming a game of triple crossing and multiple jeopardy – but issue #9 tries setting the record straight, for lack of a better word, as we see a story and read another.
Dropping the current Tom Taylor storyline for the issue, we move back to a younger Taylor/Tallis, as he conveniently joins the mythology enthusiasts of Oxford, the Inklings. Mike Carey is not a stranger to tinkering with literature, and that is pretty much the scope of the series, but this particular twist is especially juicy, adorning Taylor with even more power and resources than we had seen so far. And then Pullman shows up. Followed by Madame Rausch.
The interaction between the different characters, their voices included, is well crafted, both with the Inklings and the fearsome threesome, and the parallel scripts used to show the extent of the characters’ powers are a well-executed example of the possibilities of comics as a medium. Taylor’s voice, however, is the most intriguing aspect of the issue, showing him as a new writer, a naive perhaps, manipulator of stories – with one, significant change in his tone towards the end.

Art
The parallel scripts, of course, only work with the layouts and artwork of the co-plotter, Peter Gross. The pacing is really well done, and two pages in particular really stand out (including the final one). Additionally, Vince Locke’s finishes on the art really help in setting the time scale of the issue, and make the mythopoeic splash page look truly outstanding.
If possible, Chris Chuckry’s colours take that even further, contrasting the pub scenes with the ones showing Rausch, Pullman and Taylor in such a way that the latter are eerily appropriate to the events taking place. Todd Klein’s hand in the typewritten captions is subtle, but necessary to the duplicitous script, and there is one particularly well-placed sound effect that really jumps off the page.
As for the cover, as always by the excellent Yuko Shimizu, it serves as a very distinct reminder that yes, this is the book-shattering conclusion approaching, Tom is not the knight he could’ve been in ‘Sang’ – but there is something more in the image: what has Tom realised, that we haven’t yet?

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
With only three more issues to go, Inklings is a superb intake of breath before the plunge, delving back into the past and motives of the three key players, seemingly revealed at last. As the saying goes, though, the storyteller is not to be believed, only the story – and we’ve seen in this issue that we cannot trust those either; but thanks to the nature of the comics medium, we are able to view multiple sides of the same tale at once, however unreliable any of them may be. So follow the threads of what’s to come, but beware: there is no indication whether they’ll get you in or out of the labyrinth.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #9 is now available in shops and digitally here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #8

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Synopsis
In “Sang” part three, to find the maanim, Sir Thomas must succeed where all other knights have failed. Which isn’t going to be easy when his own identity keeps shifting, and when the story itself seems determined to create a very different hero.

Story
The ‘Sang’ story arc finds its end, which is of course only the beginning of something much bigger, in issue 8 of the Unwritten: Apocalypse, and the manipulative nature of the series’ creators and characters alike does not give signs of ceasing any time soon. Neither in writing nor in art, and definitely not in plot.
We are given a little more grounding to the events of the previous issue, showing the long term game that Pullman and Madame Rausch have been playing all along – and probably even Wilson – as well as returning to poor Danny abandoned during the first issues in a darkness of his own purported making; and all makes sense, except for when it doesn’t, but even that appears to be intentional, with a new player free from the bounds of time running through the issue.
As Mike Carey continues to prove just how much fun he can have with his writing, making everyone and everything ‘bilingual in medieval bullshit’ (actual quote), he even manages to make Tom a little more likeable, at last, as he is now aware of how little power he and Leviathan actually have in the face of everything swirling around them.

Art
Peter Gross continues in his engraving-like style for the most part in the issue, but with the perfectly executed visual bilingualism accompanying the script: the cast and settings shift, even within the same panel, between ‘real world’ and ‘medieval epic’ on wisps of colour and linework. In addition, though some characters are not actually in the book, their presence is very much felt in the background and borders of the pages, giving an eerie feeling where no added eeriness was necessary – but chillingly welcome.
Credit where it’s due: Chris Chuckry, whose name finally features on the cover(!), has a big hand in depicting those currents of reality/fiction and demarcating the difference between the scenes with Danny, Tom and the small cutaways to Pullman and his ‘agent’. All of which end up inevitably clashing at some point or other. Todd Klein seems to step back a little in this issue, but the title page still looks amazing, and some font choices work really well with the rest of the art.
As we turn back to the cover, as always by wonderful Yuko Shimizu, we also find the muted colours of parts of the issue, and of this number’s two predecessors – but the staggeringly good part is all in the object held by Sir Thomas, the maanim, which Shimizu manages to capture a number of different variations of in a single image, while referencing previous covers in the series’ run!

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
Think of all the ways in which a story gets contorted and convoluted and mis-told and re-told by every voice that retreads the same ground. Think of all the ways that Carey and Gross have done that so far. Think further, and you’ll get close to what happens in this issue, as all possible endings are possible, and most of them happen. In sequence, though not necessarily chronological. Some threads are unravelled, some knots are combed out, some wrinkles are smoothed – and nothing is about to make perfect sense. Welcome to the post-literary maelstrom. Welcome to the (yet) Unwritten Apocalypse.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #8 is now available in shops and digitally here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #7

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Synopsis
In a dark land ruled by a crippled king, Tom Taylor searches for the one thing that can save the world – but only the pure of heart can even see it. And it probably never existed in the first place. And maybe the whole quest is a trap that’s just been waiting for him to arrive…

Story
We left the main cast of The Unwritten as they were Dürered up in Tom’s fight with Count Ambrosio, in Peter Gross’ excellent rendition of an engraving, as the writing echoed Arthurian cycles and chansons de geste – and that is exactly where we meet them again in Apocalypse #7: mid-battle, mid-strophe, mid-story, mid-arc, with ‘Sang’.
I retract what I said about Savoy last time, he is, in fact, more despicable than scoundrel, Lizzie is still an excellent character, who shines through her tropes and genre conventions quite easily. There are a couple of entirely surprising, and even shocking, twists (think of a rusty knife in an infected wound), highlighting the complex games of whatever-it-is-they’re-playing of the various demiurges in the issue, from Pullman, to Paulie, to Rausch, to Taylor.. to the plotters.
Carey cleverly appropriates a history of Western literature to suit his (?) needs, dabbling with epics, chivalry, patriarchal systems and lore, to deliver one of the darkest plots since Chadron/Ambrosio and his kids, throwing in some more multilingual switches and referencing ends that still hang loose from before the Fables crossover.

Art
The artwork, moving in parallel with the story, is brilliantly switching between the engraved style and the contemporary Peter Gross, mirroring the flickering of realities in the story in yet another way since issue #1. And we also get the stunning, yet gut-wrenching, finishes by Al Davison for the Paulie and Pullman section, and the goosebump-inducing work by Dean Ormston for Rausch and her ‘children’.
The flickering is masterfully managed by Chris Chuckry and his colours, with the pervasive sepia tones working with the engravings, and some muted but otherwise nicely saturated hues for the contemporary look (even on sepia backgrounds); if at all possible, in a tale this bleak, the Pullman section is particularly gorgeous. And letterer Todd Klein clearly had fun with the lettering, with multiple fonts in captions, personalised speech-bubbles and some excellent thumping sounds.
Where Yuko Shimizu’s cover went sepia-scale last month, it returns in full, blazing glory this issue, as the quest for the maanim continues in an ominous – and fitting – flaming background, and a horse the stuff of nightmares, mounted by an eerily shining knight.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
This is a twisted issue, in many many ways – one of the reasons why it’s taken me some days to review it – and one that can and might unsettle readers in terms of narrative, themes and plot-points, as well as visual switches in styles and art, with an overarching sense of inevitability and manipulation that does not bode well for the series as a whole (it is subtitled Apocalypse, after all). I have no idea at this point what will happen next, but I do hope there will be a chance to explore some of the more questionable practices pulled out by the demiurges, all of them, this month as the series progresses. I’m onto you, all of you.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #7 is now available in shops and digitally here. Also available is the collected Volume 9, The Unwritten Fables.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #6

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Synopsis
“The Fisher King,” part 1 of 3. As Pullman’s cold war against stories turns hot, it’s in stories that Tom must find the weapons and allies he’ll need to beat him. And the best weapon of all is one a thousand knights have quested for…

Story
With issue #6, the midpoint of the series, The Unwritten: Apocalypse begins its next story-arc: The Fisher King. ‘Sang’ returns to the main cast(s), the ‘main’ narratives and the main concern for most involved – Pullman’s plot.
In a two-page sequence, Mike Carey makes sure to show off a little more, by not only featuring some of the mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but making sure their dialogue is ridiculously pun-riddled and crafted. Probably to counterbalance some seriously graphic language (which, at this point in the story, just easily slips into some characters’ mouths) and really serious subject matters, from Sumerian to chanson de geste to Arthurian (with some Twain and Tennyson) via Christianity, the Tommy Taylor books and the joy that is Richie Savoy.
Carey really drags us through a brief history of world literature, looking at incarnations of the same concept in multiple eras, minds and words, eventually settling on some Taylor and Tennyson (a version of his ‘The Marriage of Geraint’ idyll) for the rising finale – and giving an old device and character a new take on life. After a fashion.

Art
Peter Gross returns on full artwork duties, and does some dazzling layouts with panelwork, between using cups, trompe-l’œil, page bleeds and hovering frames – and the final page is a triumph of artistic imitation, with exquisite details worthy of Albrecht Dürer’s ‘The Knight Death And The Devil’ or ‘The Knight and the Landsknecht’ (among many others), and some influences from the Rheads’ illustrations of Tennyson’s poem and even Dean Ormston references.
What Chris Chuckry’s colours bring to the mix are some impressively, given the tone of the issue, softer hues and shading, giving way to superb light/dark contrasts as the story progresses and a key player enters the fray. As for the lettering, Todd Klein clearly loves Pullman and any sound he makes – not forgetting the title page (which, unsurprisingly, also features Pullman).
Cover artist Yuko Shimizu also channels some of her inner Dürer, giving us a gorgeous still life with flying cat and maanim/Graal/cup/Goblet of Fire, also in very soft sepia tones, image once again in sync with the story within the issue.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
More penises, foul language, Shakespearean puns, creation and destruction myths, recurring themes, cups, trumpets, grails, blood, wit, Pullman and more world literature that you can shake a wooden cross at. If that doesn’t drag you into this great set-up issue for what’s to come, maybe the spectacular cover, astounding interior art and colours, glorious last page or fabulous fontwork will. I am still incredibly impressed with how high this series holds it standard, rippling in the breeze of page turning.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #6 is now available in shops and digitally here. There is also a new interview with Carey and Gross here.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #5

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Synopsis
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.

Story
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.

Art
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.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #4

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Synopsis
“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.

Story
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.

Art
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.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #3

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Synopsis
Tom discovers just how quickly the world is dissolving into chaos – and why. But where in all this fractured, insane landscape will he find an ally, and what price will he have to pay? The answer lies in the Divadlo Trinka puppet theatre of Prague, and in the old cliché: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.“

Story
Two issues down, third one up. The Unwritten continues in its exploration of what happens when the collective body of fiction dies, and crashes slap bang into reality — all the fictions, in the whole of reality. The Unwritten: Apocalypse #3 marks the second part of ‘War Stories’, and plays around stories in a nice twist. (NOTE: The synopsis makes no sense, actually. The second part is probably what the next issue will focus on, and that would seem appropriate to further solicits. In fact, the covers seem switched, too.)
The crux of the story is the creation (or destruction) of something linked to Leviathan, and Leviathan itself. And yet how the story gets to it, recalling elements seeded in very early issues of the series, playing with literary tropes, myths, genres and fictions is really quite impressive. The use of French for Cosi and Leon was smile-inducing, as it’s nice to see their linguistic ground come through when faced with immediate reactions to happenings around them.
Carey does like to show his literature and music knowledge in the section titles, picking titles of Wilfred Owen poems, a good number of which included in Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Just because apparently we did not have enough going on with just sci-fi fighting-machines, Elizabethan armies, zombie nazis and fantasy knights.

Art
Peter Gross really shows some of those skills flaunted in issue one of this run, with finishes by Ryan Kelly for most pages. Especially from the point of ‘The Next War’ section, the splash pages and double spreads are really something to behold. Both him and Carey have written so much in these scenes that it’s impressive he can keep everything under control, but check with previous pages and you can see some of the same characters crop up. And all of that is going on while Danny fights with his own mazed dream-state in the woods, with some dazzling panelwork.
Colours go back to Chris Chuckry alone, and is brilliantly paired with the tone of the particular scene at hand in the story. A prevalence of earthy, red hues in the war scenes, darker tones for the forest, and some seriously creepy colours for the more supernatural (if we can say so) elements/characters. Todd Klein pleasantly delivers some excellent lettering for soundwords with different genre elements, from ray guns to tanks, arrows and fisticufss. And there’s a particularly excellent ‘blaaam’.
Yuko Shimizu’s cover, as it aligns with the synopsis, does not do its usual story capsule in an image – but is still a gorgeous piece of artwork, featuring Madame Rausch. Limbs, branches, skin and bark all echoing each other, as snakes rise from the base of the tree, on a blood-red background.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
Imagine a war just outside your window. Imagine that everyone around you is imagining their own version of that assignment. Now take all of those, and make them happen at the same time, in the space. That is the premise of War Stories. And the reason? We find out in ‘Strange Meeting’. War poetry can be executed fairly badly in popular culture, but the section titles actually work, and show their influence on the text and the reality of The Unwritten; the framework set up last month still holds really well, too, with fictional armies clashing, and the purpose is finally revealed. I continue to be impressed by the work going into this book, and so far (synopsis excluded) it has not disappointed.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #3 is now available in shops and digitally here.