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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 #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 #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.