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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

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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

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