Yuko Shimizu's cover art for The Unwritten #1
The creative team behind the long-running DC Comics/Vertigo series, Lucifer, writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross, reunite for the new Vertigo series, The Unwritten. The publisher describes the series as “a literary conspiracy mystery” in the vein of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. In The Unwritten #1 readers enter a world where the word is essentially made flesh.
Wilson Taylor wrote 13 international, bestselling Tommy Taylor books, which chronicles the adventures of the title character, a boy wizard, and his magic using friends: Peter Price, Sue Sparrow, and Tommy’s winged cat, Mingus. All those Tommy Taylor fans also know who Tom Taylor is. He is Wilson Taylor’s son, the boy the author used as an inspiration for his novels. Tommy Taylor overshadows Tom’s life, but Tom makes a decent living attending conventions and making public appearances. He lives off the fame of being the inspiration for the wildly popular boy wizard.
It is at a London appearance that Tom’s world turns upside. Lizzie Hexam, a college student studying Tommy Taylor for her doctoral thesis, questions who Tom Taylor really is in front of a large crowd of adoring Tommy Taylor fans. Afterwards, it seems as if the entire world not only turns against Tom, but it seems that many fans want to murder him. What is worst than all of these troubles is that Tommy Taylor may be real.
THE LOWDOWN: Obviously judging what is planned to be a long-running serial fantasy drama by the first issue is madness, but since first impressions are important, the authors absolutely must have either a memorable first issue or an intriguing plot/concept, a unique setting, and attractive characters. As absorbing as this first issue is, Carey & Gross offer the latter in The Unwritten #1.
While Carey & Gross have created a series with a winning plot and one that offers the promise of fantastic settings to come, The Unwritten immediately presents a promising lead character, as well as some captivating supporting characters delicious with conspiracy. The focus of The Unwritten #1 is Tom Taylor, the sad, D-list celebrity living off the fame of his father’s fictional character. Still, Tom isn’t the kind of D-list celebrity worthy of being reviled because he or she keeps stretching his or her proverbial “15 minutes of fame” well past the breaking point (like Joe the Plumber or Omarosa). He really isn’t benefiting from his fame; it’s such a burden that one might call it infamy. Tom’s is a life stillborn by questions.
In Mike Carey’s Vertigo series, Crossing Midnight,” which featured characters from Japanese folklore, one could read that the central question was not “Is this real,” but “Why is this happening?” That’s Tom Taylor’s dilemma – why is this happening to him? He is not a whiner, complaining because he can’t take the ups and downs of life. Rather, Tom Taylor is a man who really can’t move on with his life or live a full life because he is defined by what isn’t there and beset by the questions that haven’t been answered. Why did my father leave… me? What’s up with that blind trust that keeps me broke? Why did he do this to me?
In this story about stories, about words made real and with real meaning, The Unwritten has that great Everyman character, whose fantastic and fictional adventures are a metaphor for our complicated lives in our increasingly complicated times; we look for answers in our stories. In the long haul of a comic book series, I’ll take the introduction of a fine character over the all-time great first issue, but still, this first issue is quite good.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: As with the first issue of many Vertigo series, this first issue of The Unwritten is for readers looking to invest in a promising comic book for mature minds.