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The Unwritten: Apocalypse #10

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UnwrittenApoc10

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.

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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.