What if Harry Potter were real? That’s the simplified “ but rather apt “ way to describe the concept behind Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ phenomenal graphic novel “The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity.”
Tommy Taylor is two people: a young man in a magical world, as featured in a long-running series of popular fantasy novels, and a young man in our world, who’s the son of the books’ author and on whom the character is based. Since his father’s sudden, inexplicable disappearance, the real Tommy places himself as the public face for Dad’s literary efforts. That threatens to come to a close when a female grad student says she’s uncovered evidence that suggests Tommy’s not exactly who he thinks he is.
With the public now believing him a fraud, Tommy goes in search of the truth. He gets more of it than he bargained for, culminating in a deadly showdown in a Gothic mansion where it’s revealed that the line between fact and fiction is not only blurred, but riddled with pieces of broken eraser.
“Unwritten” is many things: a fantasy, a mystery, even a horror tale. But it’s also highly literate, and a testament to the power of storytelling. Tommy’s tale essentially plays out in four parts, culminating in a cliffhanger of sorts that leaves him in dire straits, while the collection’s fifth issue provides some needed backstory, albeit by jumping back in time and using Rudyard Kipling as its protagonist. I’m not quite sure what’s going on yet, but I’m totally intoxicated by its innumerable charms and puzzles.
Carey’s work is impressive, especially since I’ve been less enamored with his novels, and Gross’ art enthralls with depth and deception. “The Unwritten” joins with fellow Vertigo titles past and present like “The Sandman” and “Fables” as fantasy at its most accessible and exciting. I cannot wait to see where the story takes us next. “Rod Lott