Tag Archives: Vertigo

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2

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UnwrittenApoc2

Synopsis
In the ruins of a post-literary world, Richie and Lizzie go in search of their lost friend Tom Taylor. But to find him, they’ll have to venture into the most dangerous place on Earth: London.

Story
If in the previous issue, the first of this ‘second volume’ of The Unwritten, the story was focused on Tom Taylor’s resurrection and return to the so-called, apparently-so real world, The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2 is about what happened to that world in Tom’s absence. And so we return to the rest of the cast, now comprising vampire/journalist Richie Savoy, word-made-flesh Lizzie Hexam, true Tommy fans Cosi and Leon Chadron, an aside on Mr. Armitage, stuck in a limbo of his own, and devious demiurge Wilson Taylor himself.
The latter, and the initial sequence he is a part of, is the section that stands out the most in terms of re-setting the whole story: Mike Carey (and Peter Gross) drop the readers into a ‘post-literary world’  – possibly my new favourite concept – giving very little clue as to what has actually happened, other than “all worlds are now this one”. All of them. Reality and fiction(s) are all one and the same, and navigating through it takes more than just a map.
Carey shows some great knowledge, research and humour in deploying the secondary literary characters in the issue, and carefully re-establishes and shows off Lizzie’s true nature and powers, along with the children’s unwavering faith and strength deriving from it. Never forgetting Taylor’s meddling, tentacled words.

Art
Peter Gross shows off his storytelling, too, through some truly excellent panel work and composition throughout the whole issue. From the Prologue’s twisting borders, to the full page scenes with panels contained and scattered within them, the story Carey’s words tell is captured and ordered (if at all possible). Horrors and references to other artwork are abundant in the panels, creating the shattered scenery of the ‘post-literary’ reality
Colouring duties are split between regular Chris Chuckry and Lee Loughridge (whose work I believe is in the Prologue, splendidly dark with one candle as the sole source of light), and is impressively executed: shifting from the greyness of London to the muted warmth of parchment fire and the character’s clothes, we get a constant dusty feeling about the new reality. Todd Klein had a busy time with the lettering, with a handful of soundwords taking place in later sequences, but mostly flipping between chapter headings, Taylor’s typing, and the odd flying cat meowr.
The cover is, as always, Yuko Shimizu’s creation. And it’s stunning, with its lack of background and triumphant, powerful Lizzie standing among the seeds and thoughts of fiction, ejected from the Book – the cause of the end of the world, and the only thing that can keep it alive.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
The issue does not feel as mind-bendingly and blindingly complex or powerful as the first one, but rather is used to set the scene, and the world in which the series might (unless even more things happen in the first page of #3) take place, in a very careful and twisted way. It can be a slow burner, but by the third read I appreciated all the nuances I could get out of both the artwork and the literary references in the writing. It’s nice to see 17th century literature in a contemporary piece of work, and the conceptual framework is extremely intriguing. A world – all the worlds have just ended and conflated into one; there is bound to be chaos. And there is, indeed, and with it ink and bleeding borders, a seemingly unrelated prologue, and shattered words on the page. Proceed with caution.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2 is now available in shops and digitally here.

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The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1

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UnwrittenApoc1

Synopsis
It’s the perfect jumping on point, as Tom Taylor is stranded at the beginning of all creation! Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world’s stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality — and all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined can’t stop him. But there’s a toll on the road that may be too high for him or anyone to pay…

Story
When the story arc of The Unwritten Fables, and with it Volume 1, came to a close, the world ended. In fact, all the worlds ended. Fictions, realities, imaginations, readerships, textworlds all finally shattered after a recurring mention and succession of events throughout the series after volume 6, ‘The War of Words’, and throughout volumes 7 and 8, ‘The Wound’ and ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ (released in TPB this month).
And Tom/Tommy Taylor was at the centre of it all. Which is where we find him now, as he is recreated and reimagined from nothingness and words. Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ story brings Tom to different stories of death and renewal, of childhood and innocence, of rebirth, revelations and knowledge – in search of his own identity, he inhabits the dawn of time, Wonderland, Narnia, Aesop’s Fables, The Jungle Book, Rose Cottage and The Hundred Acre Wood, debating whether his own reality is reality at all, and where that knowledge will take him.
Carey’s writing is wonderfully executed, with the highlight found in the palindromic poetic passage in the Narnia scenes, and some perfectly appropriate human reactions from Tom to the mindfuckery going on.

Art
Peter Gross is both co-plotter and artist on the series, and takes the idea of (re)genesis and (re)creation the visual sense as Tom proceeds through the different realities. From the early almost black and white pages which contain a trace of the blue pencilwork beneath the inking, and making the marks more ‘real’ as the story progresses. He imitates other artists’ styles according to the story, too, such as John Tenniel in Wonderland, while keeping elements of his own take.
Chris Chuckry’s colours and lack thereof really made it feel like a creative process in stages, starting from the light sepia tones of the beginnings, gradually shifting into more saturated colours, once again mirroring the style that the story is using as setting. Todd Klein’s lettering, while most Vertigo readers will be used to by now, has some really creative solutions in the different sections, especially in the sound-words used in the wild geese section and the first page’s DNA sequence. The issue’s title, ‘Bestiary’, is a delight, too, with each letter shaped as an animal and in light pastel colours, in distinct contrast with the black and white page it finds itself on.
As for Yuko Shimizu’s cover, there is little to be said other than it is, as usual, absolutely stunning. Tom coming out of a dead cicada’s shell, with the background of a grim, bloodied London skyline captures the entire issue in one image, in its composition, subject and colours.

Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
So what do I think of this new beginning? Excellent. The plot is getting back to what The Unwritten was about when it first appeared, without having to work within a universe that fitted it, Fables, but still felt a little short on the sleeves.
The way in which all creative aspects conflate into the telling of this story is superbly done, with both the visual and the textual elements blending perfectly to tell the story (stories?). Tom’s return to his ‘actual’ reality leaves us with a number of questions as to what has happened during his absence, and where the story may go from here. But for the next month, I feel I have enough to go re-read in preparation. I suppose.. the end begins here?

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is now available in shops and digitally here.

A New Endeavour

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I’m going to do something new. I’m going to write a monthly review of the final 12 issues of the Vertigo comics series The Unwritten. Because I think it’s a series that needs a wider readership, and it gives me a chance to write something different.

I will follow my own set of reviewing rules: ‘no invisible labour’ – writers, pencillers, inkers, colourists, letterers, cover artists, editors, translators will all feature when necessary, and commented upon. The reviews will be around 500 words, and will include the official synopsis from the solicitations. I cannot include artwork from the comics themselves, but I will make sure to have the publicly avaialable cover image.

So, once a month, there will be a comics review.
Starting right here, right now.

(Well, from the next post.)

NaPoWriMo Day 17 – to Tell a Story

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The text:

to Tell a Story

Come, Mon Amour,
let us make a Last Stand
against the Dark
with our Blankets.

Let us Drift towards the End
of the Horizon
before this Venom
takes us,
this Haunted Dance,
by the Circle of our Chaos.

Let us reach Complete
Understanding
and find Asylum
from the Wound Within us,
our Civil War Reborn.

Let us Disguise
a long Unwritten History
of Heartbreaks
of Mysteries
to Protect each other
from Wrath.

And, as they All Fall Down
we will speed up time, for
The Arrival to the obvious
conclusion:

We Wanted Life

——
Credits
All the comics above – their writers, pencillers, inkers, colourists, letterers, editors and cover artists.