The Unwritten #5

Vertigo

 

by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

Reader Appeal: Teens to adults

Genre: Fantasy comic

 

 

The Unwritten is the twisted tale of Tommy Taylor, a young boy in a fantasy world who, not unlike Harry Potter, becomes a wizard!

 

Or is it?

 

The truth is, Tom Taylor is just an ordinary kid, except his father used him as a character in a series of popular fantasy books, unintentionally turning him into a minor celebrity. Now, years later, Tom is all grown up and still living off the scraps of fame and notoriety that remain, bitter from living in the shadow of “Tommy” the wizard. He’s just an ordinary person, and the stories are just that: stories.

 

Or are they?

 

What if the stories are true?

 

This is the premise for The Unwritten, a curious series that tinkers with the idea that real-life inspirations for fictional characters might be more like their counterparts than we ever suspected. The author, Mike Carey, likes to play with the differences between fact and fiction, and blurs them quite a bit in this series. But the real star is Tom Taylor, the man who might be a fictional character.

 

Oddly enough, issue #5 departs from the Tommy storyline to take a wander through the stories of Rudyard Kipling, the star of this issue. Because of this, it can be read as a “standalone” story, but it will probably be more meaningful and enjoyable if you’ve read the earlier issues.

 

This story really begins to get into the truth behind the mysterious cabal that is stalking Tom and the secret connection between the world’s great fiction stories. Kipling, as a young and aspiring writer, is approached by a man named Locke, who claims that the group he works for can make him a success. As time unfolds, though, Kipling begins to learn more about the real nature of the group he has made a bargain with, and what he learns may be hard for him to face.

 

I love British literature, so naturally I was a bit biased to like this comic, but it really is a fun, intriguing story, combining elements of many different inspirations into one exciting fantasy thriller. How often do you get comic conventions, secret societies, Frankenstein, and Rudyard Kipling all in one book? It really is a lot of fun, and it’s a very smart book, too, and the characters are very strong. If you’re someone who likes literature, you’ll especially like this series and this issue.

 

The art in The Unwritten is exceptional. The covers look more like actual “art” than comic covers. The variety of the different settings is also amazing. You begin in the world of the mundane, a comic convention, of all places, and before you know it you’re in Imperial Britain’s India. The art in this issue has an old-world, faded tone to it that makes me think of old postcards and suitcases and British adventure novels. The visual journey across the issues alone is worth the ride. I particularly liked how the art was integrated with one of Kipling’s poems, “How the Whale Got His Throat,” in this issue.

 

For all its creativity and intelligence, there are some things about this series that possibly won’t appeal to families. If this were a movie, it would probably get a PG-13 rating (not an R) for language and violence. It’s not any worse than a PG-13 movie, though, and the stylish art and deeper-than-usual storytelling makes The Unwritten a worthwhile option for entertainment. There’s also the possibility that readers will be inspired to read the real works of literature referenced in the story, and that’s something families would undoubtedly appreciate.

 

I have no doubt, personally, that if they can get enough people interested, this will be Vertigo Comics’ next hit. I could even see this being bound together into a graphic novel or made into a movie. Well, maybe. In any case, it was a breath of fresh air for me, and well worth reading.

 

Let’s Talk About It

If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:

 

• Have you ever made a bargain that you later regretted? What happened?

 

--MV

 

Note: All book or comics-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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