Friday, May 27, 2016

And Rex Hamilton as Moby Dick

The Unwritten: Apocalypse (2014-2015): written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross, Dean Ormiston, Yuko Shimuzo, and others: And so Mike Carey and Peter Gross' grand, meta fantasy comic-book series comes to its 12-issue conclusion. It's magnificent and funny and clever, and if you haven't read the rest of The Unwritten, you should start there before coming to the end.

Writer Wilson Taylor spent decades trying to create a human being who straddled the worlds of Story and Reality. That was Tom(my) Taylor, his son whose namesake is the young magician-hero in a series of insanely popular children's books written by Wilson Taylor. Why? 

Well, that's what a lot of The Unwritten was about. But in Apocalypse, Tom must finally use his strange powers to save the world from collapsing into an endless series of pocket-realities, or perhaps even complete oblivion. Why? 

Because the great beast Leviathan, living repository of all of humanity's stories, is dying. As it dies, it bleeds stories into reality. The world is disintegrating into a battlefield of narratives. And all this, ostensibly, because the man known best as Pullman wants to die. Pullman is the first villain of humanity's stories. And because he's become an archetype, he cannot die. This really pisses him off. For Pullman to die, humanity has to die. So what?

Our stalwart heroes Tom, Liz Hexam, vampire-journalist Richie Savoy, and a few others must figure out how to stop Pullman's plans and buy Leviathan time to heal. To do so, they'll quest through the shifting landscapes of Story now erupting into London, England. 

Main artist Peter Gross gets tested to the limit by the various artistic styles required to depict everything from Medieval Romance to 21st-century children's books to the events of Moby Dick. And he's great, though his fine, clean cartooning for the 'baseline' world of Tom and friends remains my preferred mode. He's been terrific for the entire run of The Unwritten. So too cover artist Yuko Shimuzo.

To save both Reality and Story will require unlikely allies (Mr. Bun? Madame Rausch?). It will take the stories to the den of the Inklings, and to the haunts of anthropomorphic animals, and to the carnage of London under siege by a seemingly infinite array of fictional beings. 

It's all thoughtful, sometimes sad, often funny. Comparisons to that other long-form fantasy comic series about Story, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, are apt. Carey is a lighter, funnier writer than Gaiman, however -- they may have similar bone structures, but the two series nonetheless look a lot different on the surface. The conclusion of this story is utterly apt, clever, and possessed of that white whale from "the only book where the whale wins." Read the rest of The Unwritten and then read this, and you'll understand why it's Highly Recommended.

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