Tag Archives: Pullman

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #12

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UnwrittenApoc12

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.

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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 #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.