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Review Group: The Unwritten #1

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, May 19 2009 and posted in Reviews

McKegan had the pick for new comics shipping May 13th and he selected The Unwritten #1 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

The Review Group loves Vertigo.  The Review Group also loves $1 comics.  Will that translate into the Review Group loving The Unwritten?  Yes, yes it does.

Review by GLX

Entertaining comic. Mainly setup, but I like the potential of this series. Also, the last page with the missing author's notes were cool.

8* out of 10*
Review by 48THRiLLS

Easily the best promotional idea for introducing a comic since Robert Kirkman gave away the first issue of The Astounding Wolf-Man on FCBD a couple years back. Even better is the fact that this was a great read. After reading this you get the feeling that there is some rich history even though this is the first issue. I like how they didn't dance around the Harry Potter similarities, even poking fun at it... no matter how different they made the character from Harry Potter it would be dubbed an HP rip-off since Rowling has a franchise tag on anything wizard, so I like that they kinda threw the similarities at the readers face. The art was solid, maybe not great but very above average.

STORY - 9.5
ART - 8

Review by Timberoo

Art - Solid line work and great style. I liked the use of more muted colors.

Story - In a nutshell, I want to see where this is going. It drew me in, even though I've never read the types of books that inspired it. Is he real? Was he brainwashed? Is there some kind of conspiracy? I want to know.

Things I didn't like - It didn't seem British enough. The fact it was set in England and the characters were British wasn't immediate to me. I think it was the dialog.

I give it an 8.

Review by doombug

When I read this last night I sat quietly for a few minutes trying to determine what I just read, then it clicked. The best way to describe this book in my mind is Galaxy Quest for Harry Potter fans. Or it even feels like Dr. Venture where the character had these absurd adventures as a kid and has to deal with trying to live a normal adult life. The over all mystery to piecing the puzzle pieces together is great.

I really enjoyed our two main characters here as well as the agent who doesn't seem to be as trustworthy as what his poor client thinks of him. I loved Mike playing with the Harry Potter parody to the full extent and honestly it will be interesting to see where things go next.

Hell for a dollar this is definitely worth it.


Review by Daringd

I’m cheap I only check it out due to the $1 price tag. Now I have a new series on my sub. Everything worked, the concept was amazing and the art was solid. Plus 40 pages for a buck is unbeatable. The series I hope will continue to be as complex and intense as this first issue. In fact it reminds me of Y The Last Man a bit. Time will tell of course, but for now I’m on board.


Review by starlord

This book club has been getting some real winners of choices lately, and this is no exception. With a "wish I'd thought of it premise" (thank you for that Mr. Vaughan), I was completely sucked in within the first three pages. A beautiful cover and art that is just as mesmerizing as the story.

I really dig the Potter comparisons as well and also agree that this story could go in several directions at this point. If the writing stays this strong, even the most obvious direction will be entertaining for me.

My problem with this is that I have always bought my Vertigo's in trade, so now I'm trying to decide if I can wait that long for the first one to come out, after reading such an exceptionally well-done first issue. The answer... NO! It's on my list. I'm sold.

Story: 9
Art: 9
My Score: 9

Review by Punchy

Story - Books, in many ways Comics shouldn't like books, they are our bigger, more successful, more athletic brother, gaining the mainstream respect our own little niche medium. But for some reason, many comics have played with famous literary creations and have shown a large deference to the medium. Whether it be Warren Ellis exploring the pulps in Planetary, or Alan Moore making them fuck each other like rabbits in Lost Girls, there is a rich history of comics playing with Books in ways that they themselves cannot, The Unwritten looks to be the next great step in Comics about Books, and it really is a great step, hugely enjoyable and choc-full of interesting ideas, this 40-page opener was one of the best debut issues I have read in a while.

The basic conceit is that a Harry Potter-esque boy Wizard was based on a real person, the son of the author, much like Christopher Robin in Winnie The Pooh. That alone would be enough for an interesting story, the contrast between the boy in the stories, and the man in the real world, and Carey seems to have particular fun showing the fiction, and then the fact. But there's more. There's a conspiracy even! Is Tom Taylor actually Tommy Taylor, crossing the boundaries and into real life? Or is he just a publicity stunt, bought by his father to sell more books? These are very powerful hooks, and at the moment I'm definitely leaning towards the more supernatural side of things.

But all this hokum wouldn't mean much if we didn't have interesting characters and situations to base it on. The central figure of Tom(my) Taylor is a strong one, we get to see multiple sides of him, his anger at his father for leaving him, his confusion about all the fuss, and even some of his arrogance. I also liked his knowledge of literary geography, it's something I'm also pretty interested in, when I was in London recently, my Mother showed me Poirot's house, and I have seen 22-1B Baker Street a couple of times. Not only were these bits educational, but I think they are a big clue for the future, I think Tom is going to cross back over into the world of Literature, like that Macauley Culkin film (Pagemaster? I think that was it, with Doc Brown), and this knowledge will be a big help. We also have Tom's sleazy agent, who may be a bit of a cliche, but he certainly knows something we don't. And there's Lizzie Hexam, the woman who opened the lid on this stuff, or is she actually Sue Sparrow? The Hermione to Tom's Harry. It certainly seems so, with her constructing a real-life 'Boy Who Lived' scenario at the end (and maybe giving him a real-life wheel tattoo? I think so). I wonder what became of Peter Price, the Ron Weasley of the group? And of course, the mysterious villains at the end, who are they? What do they want? Strong mysteries, and very well constructed. I also liked how Carey didn't shy away from Potter comparisons, he tackled it head on, and that was good, nothing worse than a cowardly homage.

But there's more here than just characters and situations, The Unwritten does some interesting things with the comics format too, using a full page for a web-page report, and the online IM chats, which were certainly more on the nose than I'd expect a comic to be, 'Tom T is made of fail' and 'I call for moar!' all actual online language, and it really works. The lettering is also used in interesting ways, from the different fonts in the storybook world, the way that whenever 'Tommy Taylor' is mentioned it's in blue, and the mysterious villain at the end, speaking in Times New Roman. It's the kind of thing only comics could do with this concept, and it makes the book stand out, so a big up to Todd Klein, letterer extraordinaire.

The Unwritten #1 is a very good comic, it has a new take on the worlds of fiction, strong characters, and plays with the medium in fun ways. Plus, it was only $1 (75p for me) for 40 pages! This was a dense tome of a comic, and although the rest of the issues will be standard sized, I imagine Carey and Gross have many more thrills ahead of us. Highly recommended.

Art - Peter Gross is an underrated artist, this is probably because he doesn't really work on Superhero comics, but his art would not be suited for that, but here, it's perfect. I first came across his work when he did Chosen with Mark Millar, and I think this is a step up from there, maybe it's the colours by Chris Chuckry, which were brighter than Chosen, but this really popped. I especially liked that there was a slight shift in style from the story worlds, to the real worlds, and also the movies. And the transformation of Ambrosio (the Voldemort analogue) is particularly good, when we first see him he looks like a crazy, like someone we'd see at a convention really! But the way his appearance shifts... it's scary, yet it remains recognizably the same guy... until he is blown up. Good stuff, I can't wait for more of Gross, both here and in the sequel to Chosen.

Best Line - 'Stories are the only thing worth dying for!' That kind of sums up what the book is all about at this point to me, it's about the importance of stories in the world, that whole page of Ambrosio rant seemed to me to be of particular importance.


Review by thefourthman

Part Da Vinci Code, part Sandman, part Harry Potter, and part Moonlighting, Carey and Gross weave a powerful spell on the reader. This is a fascinating story with two very interesting characters introduced, the child star grown up and Ms. Hexam, the enquiring student. The way that their paths cross repeatedly is compelling and points to a tried and true relationship story that will blossom with time. The underlying conspiracy that begins to unravel in this issue is also intriguing.

Beyond all the story devices are the details that Carey puts in the story. We get to watch Tom live in a world of almost celebrity in a convention like setting. This is a setting in which most comic readers will find some comfort. The long lines, signing sessions, panels and costumed attendees are a kind of home away from home. Again, he is playing on the reader’s existing knowledge base. Like Willingham’s work in Fables, Carey is easing a new story out of pre-existing concepts. The familiar allows the reader to engross themselves quicker, less exposition time is needed and the story can get some momentum early on

Score 9

For thefourthman's full review, go here: http://brokenfrontier.com/reviews/p/detail/the-unwritten-1

Review by King Impulse

What Punchy said


Review by House of J

It was pretty good, liked the art, but maybe my dislike of the Harry Potter franchise colors my views a bit, because as has been noted there is no attempt to obfuscate the fact that Tommy is a HP analog. Not bad for a first issue, if it's a light week for me and I have a little extra $ maybe I'll give #2 a try but a Harry Potter/Fables/Promethea mash-up is going to be a tough sell for me.


Review by guitarsmashley

I was very hesitant about this book since as I previously mentioned I'm no fan of Mike Carey in fact I've never read a single thing by him I've liked. Peter Gross is also in the take it or leave it pool for me. I've never disliked anything he's done but he's not an artist that will make me run out and get something he's done. That's where this book leaves me. I ignored all the previews in Fables last month since I thought it looked boring like all the other Mike Carrey books I've seen. I thought the first few pages were what to expect out of this comic and I was immediately disappointed. The I realized it was going to somehow be a story in a story and figured it would be an author doing some kind of reading and it was going to be a books of magic type story. I was pleasantly surprised. This was an amazing first issue and it posed a lot of questions that I need answered and need to be answered either monthly or twice a year. I haven't decided yet. I'm interested in where the story can go and hopefully the book can keep up a monthly schedule, especially if I go that route. either way I enjoyed the book but the last page had me a little confused as blood would still be dripping from a statue a few days after it was used in an attack and well that guy just likes to carry around his attack weapon, yes I realize it was the only way to let the reader in on him being the attacker but either way it would have been nice to see him actually connected to the people we've met so far.


Review by amlah6

I'm pretty sure this is the first comic I've read by Mike Carey that I didn't hate. The concept is intriguing and the different methods used to get information across were all well executed.

It was cool to see Books of Magic referenced in this issue as Peter Gross' art was one of the things that drew me to that series back in the 90's. His style is still very similar to that so that made this comic all the better.

Story: 8
Art: 8
Overall: 8

Review by ThrillHouse

I haven't read much of anything by Mike Carey. But this book impressed me quite a bit. The art was very nice and complimented the story well. The issue managed to set up (and resolve) quite a bit of story while still leaving some big questions left, just like any good vertigo book.


Review by Chubbles

This was one of the more unique and intriguing stories I've read in some time. Carey does a hell of as job creating enough interest in the reader that I almost feel obligated to pick up the series in singles form. I understand this was meant as a promo for the series with lots of set up but that's what made this so good. There were a ton of questions raised and the mystery surrounding Tom was growing by the page. The art also served the story very well and did not detract at all from the wonderful story Carey is starting to tell here. All this for one dollar made this a can't miss for me and it's books like this which make me glad I'm in the review group.

Story 9
Art 9
Overall 9

Review by Kerny

I liked it well enough. I love the fact it embraces it's similarities to Harry Potter, even mentioning the book in this issue. The main character seems likeable enough. He wants to live his own life and not in the shadow of his dad and his legacy, ok thats cool. I'm not sure whats going on yet in the story, but thats probably a good thing

The art is serviceable. It's not going to win any awards from me personally, but it works and it isn't what I'd call "ugly" or "bad art" either. Was the bearded wannabe cult leader guy supposed to look like Alan Moore? Smile


Review by young neil

When I first noticed the preview of this in the previews catalogue, I merely flicked straight past it. I can never find myself getting excited about a comic from a 3-page preview, it never does the book any justice. But upon reading the product description, I knew I had to have this book, and do you know what sealed the deal; 40 pages for a $1.

In this first issue Mike Carey and co. deliver a story about Tom Taylor the son of an Author who wrote a series of books about a boy magician (sound familiar) named Tommy Taylor. The Tommy Taylor in his books is fashioned after his son Tom in both name and characterization. Tom Taylor now makes money off his father’s books after his disappearance, by doing the convention circuits and various book signing tours. During one of these conventions a question is raised as to his true identity and whether he is, in fact the son of Wilson Taylor, the author of the books. The journey in issue #1 takes us to a place where we start to question that he may not be from the real world at all, and may in fact be Tommy Taylor from the fictional stories.

Now what struck me was the more realistic tone to some of this book. When the question is raised to Tom Taylor “Who are you?” The Public; via the internet goes crazy and literally breaks in half. This to me really showed how fast rumour and gossip can spread thanks to the many internet based networking sites.

The page in the comic dedicated to Tom Taylor’s love of the Geography in England and what it pertains to the literary world were great and fun to read but I can’t help but thinking this will have a great deal more to do with the series at it progresses.

Now as far as I’m aware this is my first encounter of Peter Gross on art. What really struck out to me was not just the stellar art but the visual progression of Tom Taylor’s character. Tom starts out neat and presentable and throughout the book as his life becomes unhinged and he encounters various stresses little changes are used. The character looks more tired, his hair becomes out of place, he looks messy and looks genuinely stressed. Now I can’t draw to save my life, and I admire artists that can make a character look the same from panel-to-panel but this just made the comic a lot more enjoyable and real to me.

This was a great first issue setting up a lot of mysteries, and what seems to be one hell of a ride coming up. I don’t have enough good things to say about this book. The upcoming world of the Tommy Taylor mystery is one that I definitely want to be a part of.

Story – 8.5
Art – 7.5
Overall - 8

I’ve read it three times already and if I didn’t have a no-vertigo-monthly-except-for-fables rule I’d be on this every month so fast, but alas I have to keep costs down somehow.


That gives The Unwritten #1 a very impressive group score of 8.53.  Definitely worth a dollar, I think.

For further discussion about this issue and our reviews, feel free to join us in this week's thread (http://www.theouthousers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=23447) found in the Newstand forum where you are also invited to join the group by posting your own review.

48THRiLLS has the pick for May 20th and he has selected The Boys: Herogasm #1 from Dynamite Entertainment.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to join in on the fun.

The Boys: Herogasm #1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciller/Inker: John McCrea

An evil so profound it threatens all mankind... the mightiest heroes on the planet uniting to defend us all... a secret crisis of such utter finality that a countdown to civil or infinite war seems unavoidable... but have you ever wondered what really happens during Crossovers? The Seven, Payback, Teenage Kix, Fantastico and every other supe on Earth team up for an annual event like no other... and where the supes go, can a certain "five complications and a dog" be far behind? Vought-American prepare to make their move, in a story that will change the world of the Boys forever: Herogasm #1.

The first-ever Boys spin-off mini-series features the pairing of Ennis with Hitman artist John McCrea and covers by Boys artist and co-creator Darick Robertson!



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