"Season two," as Mike Carey might describe it, of The Unwritten adjourns
with a familiar theme and with a familiar lead, the manically
foulmouthed rabbit, Mr. Bun, from issue twelve's Willowbank Wood (read my review of that issue here). Last
we'd seen the homicidal bunny, his fate was seemingly sealed, but now it
would appear that poor Mr. Bun is far from dead, though "consumed" may
better communicate his current status.
This is a beautiful, yet simultaneously disturbing, masterstroke of dark
fantasy. "Stairway to Heaven" is not unlike issue twelve in its
off-color delivery, but rather in its presentation as a mounting quest
and not an addled tale of paranoia and surrealist horror. In this issue,
Carey and Gross scatter a few more pieces of their grand puzzle,
alluding once again to Pauly Bruckner, Bun's ostensibly human birth
name, broaching the link between Pauly and Wilson, and illustrating, via
the eponymous stairs, the way in which story worlds are metaphysically
In this issue there is a thematic commingling of Lewis Carrol, A.A.
Milne, Beatrix Potter, and others in a fashion that a berserk Brian
Jacques might present them, a whirlwind of foul-mouthed, violent, yet
adorable sword and sorcery. An innocently naive narrative pins the whole
thing together, creating a fascinating contrast reminiscent of Carey's
work in Lucifer with the introduction of Elaine Belloc.
Bruckner is delectably devilish and fiendishly manipulative. He
represents a character singularly possessed by bitter vengeance, and the
torment that racks his brain manifests vividly in his demeanor through
Davison and Chuckry's moody charcoal and pastel finishes over Peter Gross's impeccable
layouts. The setting of the stairwell is also evinced in a way that
relays the unearthly nature of it without leaving the reader feeling
gipped by something that is purely psychotropic fluff. In fact, The
Unwritten as a whole retains an uncanny palpability despite the
prevalence of empyrean whimsy, and that is a truly remarkable
accomplishment. Carey and Gross are making readers very "happy ever after" with this book.