This issue of “The Unwritten” is a turning point in the series, as Mike Carey and Peter Gross begin to look beyond the Tommy Taylor books to explore literature on a larger scale. While the first two issues showed scenes from the boy wizard books that exist in this world, this one begins with a scene from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” an important and logical place to begin in this exploration of literature.
Tom Taylor is in Switzerland, at the house where his father stayed while writing some of the famous Tommy Taylor books, but it is also the same place where Mary Shelley conceived of “Frankenstein,” which allows Carey and Gross to draw parallels between the monster in that story and Tom, and to comment on horror fiction in general while using the tropes and conventions of it to further the plot. None of this is anything too special or original, but they do it with such skill and subtlety that it never comes off as labored or forced. If anything, this issue seems like the real beginning of “The Unwritten” with the first two acting merely as prologue to this journey through English literature (and possibly beyond).
The true history of Tom Taylor is still unclear as he could be Tommy Taylor, the boy wizard, or he could a Romanian orphan that Wilson Taylor used as a marketing plot, or maybe something else entirely. Signs strongly point to Tom being a fictional character made real, the creation of Wilson, making him very much like Frankenstein’s monster — albeit without a Victor to confront and blame as he does in the scene reproduced here. However, Carey and Gross draw upon Tom’s memories, and we begin to see more of his ‘father’ and what life with him was like.
At the same time, there is a writer’s workshop at the villa to discuss “Frankenstein” and it seems every type of horror writer is present with authors who write stuff like “Sexy undead chick solves crime the big city,” “cosmic metaphysical horror,” “magic realist psycho-gothic epic,” “postmodern self-referential slasher horror,” and “torture porn.” Their interactions are entertaining on their own as Carey has fun with these representatives of their various subgenres battle it out for superiority — and, then, perhaps, encounter a real life horror story.
If you look at this plot, nothing about it demands that it be a comic until Peter Gross enters and delivers clean, masterful work. Beginning with his interpretation of Frankenstein’s monster, moving on to the workshop and right on through Tom’s memories of his father, Gross adds drama and excitement to each page. While Carey gives us a hint of these writers, Gross completes the picture (no pun intended) through unique body language. You can just look at these characters and know who they are. Who would have thought a half-dozen writers discussing “Frankenstein” would be so interesting to watch?
In this issue, Carey and Gross make it clear that “The Unwritten” is going to be more than just Tom Taylor and it looks like this series is Vertigo’s new ‘must read’ monthly.