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Unwritten #2 [Review]

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity: Chapter Two

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckry, Jeanne McGee
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Cover: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Vertigo / DC Comics

This issue continues to show us Tom Taylor and his quest for the truth–of himself, his dad, and what’s going on around him. He seeks out the woman his father had an affair with while he was a boy to ask her about his real mother. He’s referred to where his father was last seen, and heads there. The present-day story is interspersed with excerpts from the Tommy Taylor books, adding an extra layer to the story.

The art continues to work very well for the story, taking on the appropriate visual style for showing the ‘real world’ or the world within the Tommy Taylor books. No complaints from me there.

The story also continues to impress–there’s definite development of Tom, and forward movement to the story; between the pages showing excerpts from the books as well as “web activity” related to “current events” in the present-day part of the story, there’s a lot going on within these pages that help to make it feel like a longer read than it is–one cannot simply flip through the pages skimming the words as one can with some comics these days.

I’m not as blown away with this issue as I was with the first, having extremely high expectations after enjoying the premiere issue so thoroughly (plus, this issue managed to sneak out two weeks ago and I didn’t even notice it the week it was released).

While certainly not a done-in-one story, I do feel like I’m getting a decent value following this as single issues (for all two issues out so far)–I hope it continues that way, making the collected volume feel like less of a necessity for enjoyment of the story at hand.

If you can find that first issue still, I highly recommend snagging both issues–especially if you’re a fan of Harry Potter or have any interest (even academically) in the nature of the “phenomenon” surrounding the Harry Potter books.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

The Unwritten #1 [Review]

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Cover: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Vertigo / DC Comics

This issue opens with essentially a graphic novel representation of a popular kids’ book, one that I immediately compared to Harry Potter. The scene unfolds in a way that reminded me of the ending of Harry Potter, book 7…and at the conclusion of this scene, we move into a “real life” scene years after the Tommy Taylor book had seen print, and meet Tom Taylor. As the now-adult model for the fictional character, Tom has made a living cashing in on the fame thrust upon him–all the more as his father disappeared years earlier–some suspect murdered, but Tom just knows his father left him. At a TommyCon panel, Tom is asked by an audience member about his true past, revealing documents casting his identity into suspicion. As the suspicion makes the national news, Tom finds himself hated and hounded by the public.

I don’t have much to say about the art on this issue–it very much sets a certain tone, and conveys both a fantasy setting and “real world” settings very well. A number of small details capture the feel of the settings, while never making me feel like I was reading something trying to be anything other than a comic book. As a co-creator of the book, and this being the debut issue, there’s nothing prior to make much of a comparison to, but Gross’ work certainly sets a nice standard for a high level of visual quality on this.

The story, though, is what makes this issue. I found myself drawn in from the first page; familiarity with Harry Potter brought to mind, and curious what would set this apart from that. (Further reflection also has me reminded strongly of Abadazad.) We’re introduced to several in-story fictional characters, and then several characters meant to reflect the “real world” within this series. We’re not given a whole lot on any individual character, but we’re given enough to be interested in Tom and his life–who he really is, where he’s come from…what happened to his father, what inspired the Tommy Taylor stories, and a number of other questions. We have a realistic world built around the character–complete with news excerpts, web news articles, blog/chat excerpts, and even snippets of notes from the “author” of the Tommy Taylor books.

There is a lot at play here–I know just enough about writing that I can tell there’s loads of metatextual stuff to be found–that appeals on a number of levels. Wrap the multiple layers with the engaging story and believable characters that are familiar yet unknown enough to engage the reader.

This is one of the best reads I’ve found in comics in a long time…and certainly one of the best values in contemporary comics. We have an oversized issue with few ads priced at only $1; the story is very much a “pilot episode” of sorts, where there’s a story to be found just in this issue, while setting up plenty for the rest of the series to come. As a Vertigo book, I wouldn’t recommend this for the youngest readers, but with that in mind, I highly recommend this issue!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

Air #5 [Review]

The Engine Room

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assoc. Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)

Having been unexpectedly rescued from an unplanned predicament, Blythe finds herself discovering a whole world she’d never known was present, right within the world we all know. After several issues of curious elements cropping up, some secrets are finally revealed–including a last-page doozy that promises plenty of fun potential for this series as it continues.

The story has been a bit of a slow build–with perhaps an extra issue’s worth of context being laid out that probably would have benefited from coming later in the sequence to get us to this point. So far, this isn’t something I’d consider the greatest story I’ve ever read–but while I can’t put my finger on it, there’s something to this that has brought me back four issues more than I’d intended when I decided to check out the first issue.

The art has a certain realism to it without getting so realistic that you forget this IS a comic. The detail is nice and clean, with a soft color pallet complementing it without overwhelming it. No complaints from me on the visuals.

On the whole, this is a fairly interesting new series that started out simply as a premise, but is quickly showing its potential to have a rich, deep mythology about it. It’s certainly worth checking out, though it’s probably not for everyone.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Air #4 [Review]

Masks and Other Memories

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist & Cover: M. K. Perker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
AIR created by: Wilson & Perker
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

This has been an interesting series so far. I’m not terribly familiar with the characters–they are new, after all…and haven’t yet been fleshed out all that much. The idea of a disappearing/forgotten country is intriguing, and seems to fit the somewhat surreal aspect of this series.

This issue sees Blythe and her companions returning from their trip to this forgotten country as she searches for Zayn, the man she seems to love. As explanations for a days-long disappearance are explained, Blythe finds herself in another unfamiliar situation as she goes to a special meeting with her boss.

The art seems the most notable thing to me with this issue–especially the bird-snake appearing from behind the panels to interact with Blythe. Blythe herself is given a distinct look, often shown with a detail that lends an extra bit of realism on the page. The characters are all distinct and nicely drawn, which is a definite plus-point for any book; There’s a certain lightness in these pages that captures the (forgive any pun) “open-air” of the environments, even when enclosed inside a plane.

The story is at once familiar and unique. There’s been an element of surrealness in the first few issues…the ending of this issue continues to throw things on their head a bit, as we realize this is more than what it appears.

I’m suitably interested…I’ve made a point of reading the first issue of most new Vertigo books, and something about this series has had me picking up these later issues, and while I’m a bit bored with the Blythe-is-trying-to-find-Zayne-who-isn’t-who-she-thought-he-was, the final page of this issue grabbed me, and I want to know more.

As with most Vertigo series, this will probably read better in the collected volumes…I’m certain there are details I’ve missed or forgotten that would be much more noticeable reading the chapters in close succession without months between.

Assuming the usual Vertigo style of 5-issue premiere arcs, the next issue should conclude the immediate arc, and presumably set us up for where the series looks to go. If you’re into the singles, this is worthwhile; if you prefer the collected volumes, I’d suggest holding off–this lacks a spectacular nature with an urgency to the singles.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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