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Unwritten: spellbinding graphic novel about narrative’s secret place in the world


Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity collects the first series of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s Unwritten comic. It’s a fine, mature graphic novel in the tradition of Bill Willingham’s Fables (Willingham wrote the intro to the collection): Tom Taylor is best known for inspiring his father’s character “Tommy Taylor,” the star of a mega-best-selling series of kids’ fantasy novels. Now a young man, Tom earns his keep through depression convention appearances, fending off questions about his father’s mysterious disappearance.

It’s a crappy living, but it’s a living. Until a pseudonymous grad student in the crowd accuses Tom of being a cuckoo in his father’s nest: the kidnapped son of a Serbian family, “borrowed” to help market the books, and then never returned. Inconsistencies in Tom’s life come to light — inconsistencies even Tom wasn’t aware of — and his adoring fans turn into a lynch mob.


Thus begins the saga of Tommy Taylor, who must answer the riddle of his father’s disappearance before his disappointed fans (and insane stalkers) tear him to pieces. Before long, Tommy is at the center of a supernatural puzzle, stalked by far more dangerous things than disgruntled trufen — shadowy conspirators from an ancient order that has secretly controlled the world by controlling its stories, leaning on writers from Kipling to Twain to force their prose to serve their agenda.

Unwritten manages to tell a fast-paced supernatural horror story while musing philosophically on the role of narrative in our lives and nations. It makes for engrossing and exciting reading, and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for the next collection.

Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

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