What I think I love about “The Unwritten” the most (and there are a lot of things to love) is how Mike Carey is weaving so many different mythologies about books into his narrative. It’s the little unexpected things that keep cropping up, every issue, where you look at what’s happened and realize that Carey’s done it again, and “The Unwritten” #11 is no exception.
After all, you’ve heard the old complaint about how a movie adaptation “ruins” a book. Carey takes that meaningless argument and moves it to the next level; this is a story about what happens to the soul and core of a book when a movie warps it beyond recognition. His target is “Jud Suss,” a book written by a Jewish man that then got turned into a horrific film that served up anti-semitic propaganda. It’s a smart choice, because no matter how much you might have hated how your favorite book was turned into a movie that bore little resemblance to the original, it’s hard to find something so radically different as these two versions of “Jud Suss.”
It’s from there that “The Unwritten” weaves its normal magic, letting us learn about the hidden world of books, as well as how Tom Taylor fits into that reality. Best of all, though, this issue feels like a distinct turning point because Tom is grabbing onto his destiny with both hands and really seizing control of the situation. Up until now we’ve seen half-hearted attempts to figure out what was happening, but as a protagonist there’s only so long that he could stay interesting and be passive; it’s nice to see Carey having driven Tom to the point where he can’t be a back seat driver.
Jimmy Broxton provides finishes over most of the art this month, presumably to give Gross a slight break before the new storyline kicks off in the next issue. It’s still recognizably Gross’ pencils, but I think that Broxton’s finishes aren’t a perfect match; a lot of the finer details are gone, and there’s a rough texture to a lot of the people. Tom Taylor has never been a glamorous looking character, but there’s one page in particular where he first looks into the heart of the canker that Tom actually looks downright ugly. Then again, if there’s one story in this book where a slightly rougher, uglier look to the characters would fit, this is certainly the case. As for the canker itself, the cacophony of images as they cascade around the air is an impressive feat; “The Unwritten” isn’t much for two-page splash pages, so the look at the canker unfolding here across two pages ends up being that much more of a strong visual impact. Gross and Broxton knock it out of the park and at the end of the issue, that’s what you’re going to remember the most from the art.
“The Unwritten” has lots of tricks up its sleeve, and it’s a joy to watch them get unveiled one at a time. Carey even isn’t against a sly nod to the audience every now and then. At one point, Tom dryly notes that if he was Tommy, there was a certain object (now in Tom’s possession) that Tommy finally picked up in the second book of his series. “The Unwritten” #11 closes out the second collection of this series; somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. If you aren’t reading “The Unwritten,” you’re missing a grand series about reading and imagination and everything creative. This is great stuff. Check it out.