Though the T.S. Eliot allusion would be right up its alley, “The Unwritten” looks to end with a bang, not a whimper. The story isn’t slowing down or thinning out on its way to the finale, as Mike Carey and Peter Gross introduce new elements, drop Easter eggs for old readers, and still find time for a life-or-death plot involving the moral mechanics of Restoration theater. Good gravy, I’m going to miss this series when it ends.
Most post-apocalypses show the world burnt to nothing. “The Unwritten: Apocalypse” shows it stuffed with everything. Carey and Gross do an excellent job of imagining what it would be like to live in a world where reality and fantasy are catastrophically intertwined. In this newly terrifying London, Gross’s art is something to behold. From a sun that sometimes bites to baby Leviathans swimming through the pub; from portly spider families to the angle of each rakish mustache, he’s got something to say about every small piece of the story. I’m always impressed by his level of detail from a purely aesthetic perspective, but in this issue it really amplifies the sense that there are hundreds of different stories taking place in this city. When each piece looks so complete and self-contained, it’s easy to imagine them as stories that dropped wholesale into reality and merged with it.
Carey also wisely resists the urge to overindulge the reader’s curiosity. London is peppered with strange creatures and pocket dimensions that are not explained, only dealt with. It feels much more realistic that his characters don’t stop to ask why these dangers have appeared in this particular way, because they’re too busy figuring out how to avoid them. The script is sharp and on-point, whether the words come from Wilson typing his mantra or a seventeenth-century libertine repenting his sinful ways. Carey still has a knack for inhabiting the tones and tropes of other stories without getting too cloying. It’s a credit to the creative team that all these different modes can still feel like part of one universe. The thematic unity always trumps the stylistic differences in how those themes are conveyed, and that takes a remarkably strong sense of message.
In addition to providing a quick independent story, this issue also finds time to set up for what’s to come. A forgotten character is reintroduced, and the creative team couldn’t resist the opportunity to get meta. He’s explicitly reminded “you dropped out of the plot a long time ago” and told, “I want you to understand your own importance – which is vast.” I’ve no doubt he’ll play a big role in things to come, and while some might have found this reappearance gimmicky, I enjoyed the self-awareness of the foreshadowing. If it’s not okay call out literary devices in a series like this, when would it be?
There isn’t much more to say except that “The Unwritten Apocalypse” is some seriously great storytelling. Driven by high-stakes plotting and backed by a dense and complex mythology, it’s got everything I could ask for in a series finale.