Tommy Taylor continues to search for answers regarding his mysterious origins. This journey has now taken him to the Villa Diodati where with the help of the enigmatic Elizabeth Hexam he discovers an old safe that his father previously used, the contents of which contain both an important clue and a warning. Meanwhile a killer stalks the halls of the ancient house and members of a visiting horror writers group are being individually attacked and killed.

UNW_Cv3_R1.jpgIn 1816, during the infamous “Year Without A Summer” a group of renowned literary personages, led by Lord Byron, spent that dreary season competing with each other to see who could create the best horror story. The unanimous winner was Mary Shelley, beating amongst others her own husband the world famous poet Percy Shelley and also John Polidori’s seminal “Vampyre” work, with her marvellous creation of Frankenstein’s monster. All these events took place in a palatial manor house overlooking Lake Geneva, called the Villa Diodati. It’s certainly no coincidence that all the events in this issue of “The Unwritten” take place in that very same villa. The intriguing premise is that Tom Taylor lived in this house when he was a child and it was also where the original “Tommy Taylor” novel was conceived and written by his father, Wilson.

The book starts off an extract from the Frankenstein novel and we soon discover that someone is actually reading it out loud to a eclectic group of horror writers that have commandeered the villa for a weekend seminar discussion about the true meaning of terror. All the various writers are from differing branches of the genre and to my mind they also represent the different ways that a similar story can be told which is really the theme of this compelling Vertigo series. As the line blurs between fantasy and reality becomes even more nebulous this tale asks just exactly what constitutes a story and how much affect to they have on our perceptions of the real world.

Its amazing how much of our lives are built around stories. It may be as totally different as your favourite television show or the history of your favourite sports team but they are both a form of ongoing narrative. However, the way that stories have been received by the listener has also changed over thousands of years. It was originally only an oral form but that has now developed with all the various electronic media forms in now comes in. The way of telling stories has changed and perhaps their fundamental meaning has changed as well. What is the purpose of fiction? What changed for the aboriginal humans that they needed to alter their tales from the day to day accounts of events to fictional events made up in their subconscious? Mike Carey has obviously thought about these things in great depth and is suggesting that this secret cabal ‘The Unwritten’ has somehow directed this development. We don’t know yet exactly why they have done this but we find out this time that they are certainly willing to kill to keep their secrets.

The action then shifts to Tom Taylor exploring the villa both physically and within his memories of the place. The search for answers is obviously the driving force here but the dialogue between himself and Elizabeth Hexam also help him explore his mixed feelings about his father. The rise of child stars, usually says more about the frustrated ambition of their parents than it does about the kids own aspirations but at least with most young prodigies there is some core talent for the fame to be hung on. That child may eventually end up hating their fifteen minutes in the fame spotlight but at least there is the small comfort that they actually did the thing that they were famous for. How much more humiliating must it be for the child, when the parent takes their kids identity and grafts something onto it that is a total fabrication. Perhaps the most famous example of this in modern literature is when A.A. Milne transformed his son into a young human companion for a slightly stupid talking bear who loved honey and lived in the Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher Milne grew to hate his fictional counterpart and spent much of his subsequent life trying to escape the cute cage his paterfamilias had fabricated for him.

Tom Taylor’s journey has obviously been similar to Milne’s but the main difference between the two is that at least Christopher Robin had the comfort of the cash generated by his fathers’ famous tales and he could use this largesse to escape into a comfortable anonymity. Tom is forced to live off whatever earnings he can generate by talking about his dads magnum opus and signing books because when he tries to do something more substantial that’s entirely his own he usually fails miserably. He is a star but only in a second-hand sense. Its not that people never see the real Tom, it’s more like that they have no interest in the live human being at all because they would much rather deal with their own imagined perfect version of “Tommy” from the books. Papyrus has more physical presence than personality. All that was bad enough but Tom had learned to cope with his unwelcome situation but now from out of the blue he is being accused to not even owning the identity that has haunted him for most of his life. He may be a fiction twice over.

This wonderful series co-created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, who previously worked together on the Eisner Award nominated ‘Lucifer’, is really starting to blossom now. This book does not lend itself to a quick perusal because it’s only through a careful reading do you get the full rich tapestry of their work. Not many comics leave you with a feeling of wanting to read the next issue straight away and any that do should be treasured. This is a book that you should be reading and I give it four stars.


The Author

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis is old. I mean really, really old. So old in fact, that the first ever sequential art that he ever saw was when his lifelong friend in their small clan began painting bison on the cave walls. This was a true turning point in his life. Firstly, he was immediately and irrevocably hooked on the visual arts, and secondly he discovered another use for dried bison dung.

Marlowe Lewis is British. This is not an apology.

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