A month ago, I wrote of The Unwritten, “I haven’t been this stoked for a new series since I first read about DMZ.”
The first issue hits tomorrow, and I can assure you that my first (and second) instincts were correct.
The story starts with an excerpt from one of the Tommy Taylor books, which in the course of the story are prose but here are illustrated, panels fading into one another with text overlaid, bringing the first layer of the story–the novels–right into the main layer.
We’re swept from the novel into a comic convention, watching Tom Taylor defend his existence, first to actual writers who doubt his reasons for being there, then his fictional existence to an overexcited cosplayer (or is he?) and finally quite literally, to a fan who’s done some research and wants to know exactly who Tom is.
Far from just an existential crisis, Tom is thrown into a real crisis–his livelihood and even life are in danger. Peter Gross’s art subtly underlines this point, spinning its point of view around Tom from panel to panel, leaving you off balance.
Insets of a Web news story and TV panels add more and more layers to Tom’s story, pulling every mass medium into the narrative and leaving the reader stuck with Tom, trying to figure out what’s really going on before a flying brick or an overintense fan or perhaps a villain straight out of fiction steps in to end Tom’s story for good.
This oversized first issue has more twists than entire series do, but unlike most first issues, it doesn’t define the rules of the world we’re reading. Instead it offers up rules only to shatter them, introduces characters only to turn them around. The only rules it gives us are the rules of stories, and the rule there is that you can get away with anything if you can tell it convincingly. You can even start a religion if your story is good enough.
A lot of books have been offered up as spiritual heirs to Sandman, but The Unwritten, like Gaiman’s classic work, is a story about stories, though perhaps in a bit more concrete fashion–a story that explores the medium as well as the nature of stories.
Plus, it’s a dollar. So why not try it?