The Unwritten #28, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Vince Locke
Remember this? It is the one in which Tom Taylor, who may be a fictional character somehow made flesh in the real world (which in this case is of course itself a fictional world within the pages of a comic) struggles against a mysterious cabal intent on controlling the world through manipulating the fiction it consumes. As I keep noting, this title mostly tends towards the quite interesting end of the spectrum, with occasional lurches towards sheer comic genius*.
In this one Taylor and his friends are in New York. He is trying to find out more about Wilson Taylor, his late father, the creator of the Tommy Taylor series of books. Previously he made the shocking discovery that his father was a lot older than he thought and seems to have been knocking around in 1930s New York when the first comic superheroes were emerging. Tom has found his father's diaries of the period, but they are elliptical and cryptic, only half telling us what actually happened and what he did back then. Fortunately he is able to use some of his mysterious abilities to recreate the events to which his father's diary is only alluding.
What we get, then, is an interesting multi-level storyline. Tom and his friends in the here and now are the top layer. The lower one has Wilson Taylor working as an agent of the cabal, charged with assassinating the author of some new superhero comic The Tinker (the cabal fear that these superhero comics could let loose some kind of uncontrollable force in the collective subconsciousness, or something; it doesn't really matter); only the writer turns out to be a woman using a male pseudonym and Wilson predictably becomes romantically involved with her. And the third layer is excerpts from The Tinker itself, an entertaining pastiche of the kind of outlandish and not particularly sophisticated hero comics that emerged in the 1930s.
The art assists in setting the scene, with the contemporary pieces in the "normal" Unwritten style and the 1930s action in a more scratchy style reminiscent of that in Sandman Mystery Theatre**. And then there is the Tinker content, which boasts a facsimile of the somewhat crude art style of the period. All of this is ably accomplished by Peter Gross, with Vince Locke providing finishes for the 1930s material. Credit must also go to Yuko Shimuzu's cover, which is drawn to look like a dog-eared vintage copy of a Tinker-featuring title from back in the day.
So there you go. What I have written hopefully gives you an impression of what happens in this issue and how it is portrayed. But how good is it? In general with this title I wile away my time with the quite interesting episodes waiting for the occasional moments of genius to strike. This is not one of the amazing episodes that The Unwritten sometimes presents us with, but it does seem like the average episodes of this title are getting a lot better – the tri-level story is impressive and I found myself becoming quite engaged with the story of Wilson Taylor's romance with the woman he has been commissioned to kill.
If you have never read The Unwritten and feel motivated to check it out, you would probably be best advised not to rush out and pick up #28. It is in the middle of a story arc (dread phrase) and without back-story might well be semi-incomprehensible. A better bet would be to check out the first of the collections of The Unwritten that DC/Vertigo have published. It is entitled The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity.
*in particular, the episode that was like a mixture of The Prisoner and Winnie the Pooh, the one that gave the back story of the character in a choose-your-own-adventure format, the one that featured Rudyard Kipling as a character, and the one that was like Winnie the Pooh and the Moomins go to Gormenghast. All the stuff about Moby Dick was great too.
**a title you may or may not remember… Vince Locke did some of the art for it.
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