Let there be no misunderstanding, I loved the first issue of “The Unwritten.” Mike Carey and Peter Gross melded so many different things together there — pop culture dominance of a specific property (think “Harry Potter”), multiple mysteries, the lines of reality starting to blur, creepy villains — that I would have been pleased if the title stayed at that level of quality. With “The Unwritten” #2, though, the book has gotten even stronger, and I’m already dying to read #3.
There are several big moments in “The Unwritten” that will certainly capture your attention if you haven’t already become hooked. There’s an almost-unnerving sequence involving a set of cellar stairs that could have come across as trite or cliche in other hands, but Carey actually evokes chills in the reader as Tom begins his descent. There’s the glimpse into the “Tommy Taylor” novels that might have a clue towards what’s really happening with our lead character, or could just as easily be a red herring. And of course, the mysterious manuscript that threatens to upset the apple cart for everyone involved in this comic.
What struck me the most as I re-read “The Unwritten” #2, though, was how there are so many different little gems peppered throughout the comic. Don’t get me wrong, the overall story in “The Unwritten” is strong and watching Tom Taylor trying to avoid his newfound messiah-hood is entertaining. But there are lots of flashes along the way that grabbed my attention just as much. The fact that Tom knows so much about literary geography but hasn’t actually read most of the books involved, just being taught their locations. The fact that Tom’s father wasn’t present for the birth of his son. The multiple literary connections of his father’s villa in Switzerland and its proud lineage. There’s a lot going on in “The Unwritten” and I’m impressed that it never feels cramped or crowded.
Peter Gross’s pencils in “The Unwritten” are as lovely as ever. From the dumbstruck look on Cole’s face as he receives the manuscript, to the fear on Tom’s face on the stairs, he hits each scene with expressiveness and just the right amount (or lack) of drama. I love that even the small scenes have just the right amount of detail and care applied to them. Some of the individual panels of Sue, for example, would have been throw-away drawings with other artists. Here, though, the look on her face is just as much an integral part of the storytelling.
In a time where periodical comics are often being ignored in favor of waiting for the collected edition, Carey and Gross haven’t forgotten how a strong periodical can keep people’s interest. This is a serial that makes me want to read it monthly, because I just have to know what happens next. Now that’s good stuff.