Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: The Unwritten #31

"Tommy Taylor and the War of Words: Part One."
Writer: Mike Carey. Artist: Peter Gross. Finishes: M.K. Perker. Colors: Chris Chuckry. Letters: Todd Klein. Cover: Yuko Shimizu. Asst. Editor: Joe Hughes. Editor: Karen Berger.
DC Comics/Vertigo

I haven't written many reviews of graphic literature yet. I always intend to, but never seem to get around to it. I aim to correct that. You should know by now how much I enjoy The Unwritten, a story about stories that I liken to reading Harry Potter while on LSD. Right now the series is working through a climatic story arc titled "Tommy Taylor and the War of Words." The past 30 issues have been leading up to this point and I thought it might be nice if I slowed down, reflected on this arc, and highlighted just why this title is as awesome as ever.

For those of you that haven't been reading The Unwritten (shame on you), allow me to do a quick recap. Tom Taylor's father wrote a very popular Harry Potter-esque book series about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. Now an adult, and with his father missing/dead, Tom encounters some confusion as to whether the protagonist of the book series was named after him or if he is his father's fictional creation come to life in the real world. Also, an evil cabal that tries to rule the world through controlling stories is out to kill Tom. So now Tom, his friends Savoy, Lizzie, the flying cat Mingus, and Frankenstein's Monster, are planning to wage their own war against the cabal.

This issue opens with Tom and crew attacking a weapons deal the cabal is involved in. It then switches to a flashback of preparations for this attack, followed by the rest of the attack and the ensuing information gathering about the cabal that Tom is really interested in.

This framing of the story keeps the action steaming along at a quick pace, but this isn't really the war, yet. This is the staging and planning phase which is meant to whet our appetite for the execution of this plan. The real novelty of this issue is finally seeing Tom and his friends on the offensive instead of constantly reacting and fleeing the remarkably dire situations they find themselves in.

Further, Tom seems to have embraced his role as a sort of real world avatar of the fictional Tommy Taylor. For reasons not entirely comprehended, Tom can perform the magic that Tommy can in the books. So he has equipped himself with an over the shoulder holster like John McClane would wear. Instead of a handgun, though, the weapon Tom carries is a toy replica of Tommy's magic wand.

And with that wand, Tom can perform great magic. However, the cause of this magic, and its limits, are not fully understood, and Tom's reliance on it may prove hazardous. Tom is still intent to use it as his weapon of choice and studies the various spells the characters cast in his father's book series. This won't be a conventional war with conventional weapons, but a war where stories are both the weapons and the battlefield. As Tom says, "You learn about stories for the same reason soldiers learn how to strip a rifle."

The Unwritten is always great, and this issue is no exception. Peter Gross has a unique artistic style that may take getting used to at first. But 31 issues in and I view Gross's art as fundamental to the wonder of the title as Mike Carey's words. On that note, this 4-part story arc is interspersed with 4 additional issues examining the history of the cabal. While Gross has assistance with the art on these special issues, so far they mimic or endure his style enough to be worthy artistic contributions to this amazing series.

Seriously you guys, if you only get one thing out of Wednesday Theology, let it be that you should be reading The Unwritten.

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