For a book that received CraveOnline’s Best New Series award for 2009, the arrival of the first trade paperback of The Unwritten is a hell of a way to kick off the New Year. Releasing on January 6 and collecting the first five issues of the critically acclaimed Vertigo series written by Mike Carey with art from Peter Gross, The Unwritten Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity is your opportunity to see what it is you’ve been missing and jump on board from the get-go.
The Unwritten is many things; it begins as the relatively simple tale of a young man named Tom Taylor, who as a child was the basis of his father’s line of hit children’s novels (think Harry Potter). As an adult, he’s making his rounds on the convention circuit, Ferrigno style, cashing in on his likeness and signing copies of books that he has little to do with aside from his namesake.
However, the story soon evolves into something much more – a literary conspiracy that stretches across generations, from Tom’s father to Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde. As Tom Taylor’s life becomes a strange brew of similarities to his supposedly fictional counterpart, The Unwritten burrows its way into your brain as the most engaging comic book on the shelves.
I’ve poured over the greatness of this series numerous times now, so I’m not going to babble on about that: it’s damn good, and if you don’t have $10 to spend on this collection then you need to get a new job. In some ways, if you didn’t start this series with issue #1 and were pondering beginning your Tommy Taylor adventures with this trade, then I sort of envy you. You won’t have to wait 30 days between installments, foaming at the mouth for more.
Between the engaging narrative, different storytelling elements – ranging from excerpts of the Tommy Taylor novels, to blog posts, to an adaptation of one of Kipling’s most famous stories- and of course, Peter Gross’ uncanny artistic ability to adapt to all of these scenarios, The Unwritten becomes a densely satisfying read that is littered with high concepts.
As a bonus, your $10 will also go a bit further in this case, as Vertigo delivers a hefty amount of extras rarely seen in a similar trade paperback collection. We get the usual foreword, in this case from Fables writer Bill Willingham, in addition to the inclusion of the original prose of the Tommy Taylor narrative that opens the series. The prose section also includes sketches of Gross’ adaptation of the words that eventually became the opening pages to The Unwritten. Just in case that wasn’t satisfactory enough, we also get a brief cover sketch gallery from cover artist Yuko Shimizo.
I can’t stress enough the value of this collection. Not only are you introducing yourself to the winner of Crave’s Best New Series award, but you are expanding your comics horizon and getting on board with a series that will be looked back upon as fondly as Sandman and stories of that ilk.