Tag Archives: Sang

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #9

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UnwrittenApoc9

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.

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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.