Reviewing the Unwritten, the Unthinkable, the Unknown

I’d been planning to pick up Mark Waid’s The Unknown since learning about it back in February. The Unwritten sort of snuck up on me, but I read a preview in an issue of either House of Mystery or Madame Xanadu, and decided to check it out. The 99-cent first issue cemented the deal. Then there’s Unthinkable, which isn’t usually my type of story, but I was amused by the fact that all three first issues were coming out on the same day…and then I read quite a bit about it when the TSA found the script for an issue and detained the writer at an airport. So I grabbed that one as well.

Now all three series are on their second issues, and I’ve just caught up on all three of them.

The Unknown

4-issue mini by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer from BOOM! Studios. Cat Allingham is a world-class genius problem-solver who makes her living as a consultant to unsolved cases of all types, and has turned her attention to the greatest unsolved problem of all: what happens after death? Her assistant is a former bouncer who happens to be an expert at reading people, and has a mysterious background of his own.

It’s a combination mystery and action adventure, with some bizarre twists along the way — including one at the end of issue #2 that makes you rethink just what’s going on in the previous 40-odd pages. While the Macguffin itself strains my suspension of disbelief, the story around it has been interesting, especially the interplay between the two leads.

Verdict: Definitely on board!

Unthinkable

Mark Sable with Julian Totino Tedesco

5-issue mini, international intrigue and military action. After 9/11, a Tom-Clancy-like action writer gets hired by a think-tank to come up with doomsday scenarios — the unthinkable — before the bad guys do. Nearly a decade later, someone has started putting his ideas into practice.

The first issue is mostly setup, introducing the players and leading up to the attacks. The second issue picks up with the writer trying to get someone to listen to him and anticipate the next steps, which of course goes horribly wrong. (We’re at issue #2 or 5, after all.)

After the first issue, I was solidly onboard for #2. But after #2, I’m not sure I’m interested in continuing. It’s oddly disjointed, with a lot of critical story bits told in narration instead of being shown on the page. And characters shifting sides and motivation apparently with no cause. I’m not sure I’ll keep going with this one, but then as I said, it’s not a genre I’m usually drawn to.

Verdict: Not sure. If you like military action/adventure, you might like it better than I do.

The Unwritten

Ongoing by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, Vertigo.

The main character, Tom Taylor, was the inspiration for his vanished father’s best-selling not-quite-Harry-Potter fantasy series, and is about as self-absorbed as you might expect from the focus of a media empire. At least, that’s what he and everyone else believes until a fan’s question suggests that he’s a fraud. Then there are those who believe he’s the actual Tommy Taylor from the books, somehow brought to life in the real world…and they might not be that far off.

The first story arc is about Tom trying to learn the truth about his origins, and fighting for control of his public perception (con man or messiah?). And then there are the people who want him dead…

The books are filled with literary references (Tom’s father drilled literary geography into his head when he was a child, so he can’t help but remember details when he walks past, say, the building that was the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in 1984), and the major theme is the intersection of fantasy and reality in the form of stories.

And let’s just say I’ve always been a sucker for stories about the nature of stories. Yes, even before I read Sandman.

Don’t forget to read the text pages. There are fragments of notes, news articles, forum discussions, chat logs, etc. and they all figure in. The first time I read issue #1, I missed the page in the back, and was glad I noticed it this time through.

Verdict: Heck, yeah! I don’t know how long they can keep this up, but I’m definitely along for the ride!

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