In “Unwritten” #40, Mike Carey and Peter Gross wrap up “The Wound” story arc. Pastor Filby finally meets his messiah Tommy Taylor and most of the characters converge into the same small space for a showdown. Carey’s script for this issue will upset some readers by undermining their expectations for a louder or more obvious payoff. “The Wound” has been a quiet, more character-driven story arc, though, and will probably read fine in trade between longer arcs.
One plot point in the “The Unwritten” #40 was confusing. It makes sense that Tom would be touring, and for Filby’s mission to have teeth, he has to approach Tom publicly, with the highest stakes he can raise. What I don’t understand is the audience’s reaction to Filby. Sure, Filby infiltrated the security team, so no help there, but the audiences’ lives are at stake, Tom’s life is at stake, yet no one screams or even whimpers. The audience’s inexplicable passivity was curious enough to interrupt the logic of the story for me.
However, this confrontation scene leads into a visually absorbing climax as Tommy promises to show his audience “what happens when you try to turn a story into something it’s not.” Peter Gross’s splash page is essential to turning Carey’s metaphysical commentary into something easier to grasp. It helps that Gross’ facial expressions are exceptional in “The Unwritten” #40. As a theater audience awaits “An Evening with Tom Taylor,” a nine-panel page provides both suspenseful pacing and comic relief. The fans wait anxiously, then explode with giddy cries of “Tom!” When the curtain rises, their faces are hilariously peeved and pouty while a dour Penguin-like guy does a sound check.
Gross’s visual punchlines go well with Carey’s clever wordplay and dialogue, with Didge Patterson getting the best lines, like when she blandly informs Tom that “[the unicorn] is assisting me with my inquiries.” The best, strongest part of “The Wound” is Didge’s salty speech and her reflective narrative voice. In “Unwritten” #40, it is revealed that Didge’s disability is dyslexia. At one point, I thought her disability had to be something magical, but I was thinking too simplistically about “The Unwritten,” which has always mixed in philosophy and history with its vampires and unicorns.
It’s a neat move by Carey to make dyslexia the special something that protects Didge from being dissolved by the hand that Filby wielded. There are examples in real life, such as allergies and sickle-cell anemia, where a handicapping condition also confers some limited fitness benefit. It’s great that Carey is thinking so broadly about language and the things that define a person. Ultimately, “The Unwritten” #40 is a satisfying conclusion to a quiet story arc, distinguishing itself by its narrative layers and sharp characterization.