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Review Group The Unwritten #6

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, October 20 2009 and posted in Reviews
GLX had the pick for new comics shipping October 14th and he selected The Unwritten #6 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. {nomultithumb}

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 News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

We reviewed the first issue of The Unwritten and it turned out to be one of the more popular books since the move to The Outhouse.  It's pretty unusual that we would turn around and review the book again this soon, how has the book held up for those that stuck with it?  And an even better question, how does the issue read for those who have been trade waiting?

Review by GLX

Another great issue. Some wild stuff goes down including a conversation between the main female character and a mysterious force. Gross brought some solid art. The ending was nice and I'm ready for the next issue.

8* out of 10*

Review by House of J

The Unwritten may be a great comic. A lot of people seem to think so. In fact, opening this issue there's a whole page of them. Imagine my surprise when on the next page there are another half a dozen, including the old site which grinds out publicity handjobs with abandon. All that's missing is a quote by GLX, which will probably make a debut next issue, and by then I expect at least three pages of glad-handing. There is so much wasted space on these pages, I couldn't help but wonder why they couldn't just combine them into one publicity page and maybe put it somewhere else. Looking at the first two pages alone, my design-head is already shaking.

(I thought the cover was attractive and eye-catching in contrast, BTW.)

Then there's a fake internet report that gives away some of what's been going prior to now, but from the perspective of someone who admittedly doesn't really know any of the facts. Speaking of just the facts, ma'am, under the headline it says this was posted on 10/21/09 @12 AM but at the end it says it was posted on 10/14/09 @12 AM. Can anyone reading this book monthly tell me if that is alluding to anything at all, or simply a dumb mistake? Because the two conflicting dates are like 6 inches from each other--from the perspective of someone who used to look for stuff like this for a living, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

In addition to the report, there are tons of other expository devices used here--almost too many, from the Inside Man Reports (which oddly switch to a narrator's voice in caption boxes that does seem semi-omniscient--WTF?!) to faux-Facebook, internet searches, poetry, newspaper stories--all of it gives a sort of general idea that a bunch of folks were brutally murdered and Tom is under arrest suspected of the crime. But honestly? I'd have traded all the cramped tiny text for one decent recap page at the beginning that clearly laid out the events of 1-5.

Tom's unfortunate circumstances take us readers on a magical tour of many fantastic locales, from an (Italian?) court-room, to the interior of a high-speed train, inside a French prison--meanwhile the girl I remember from issue 1 incites Bookdealer's Rage in me wandering around damaging the merchandise of my French compeers. Tom's acquired an irritating sidekick since issue 1--nothing very interesting is revealed about him here, and it seems like his narrative utility is to serve as someone for Tom to lecture about literary history in place of the reader. In prison Tom seems to suffer a martyr complex, seeing himself as a lone Crusader beset by pagans (Roland). He wakes up to an open cell door and wanders around until he runs into...Frankenstein! Probably. All of this is rendered competently without a lot of background detail in a lot of the panels.

I'm being a tad facetious with my review because I honestly don't know what else to do--this just isn't a very new reader-friendly issue. I'm sure Invisibles #5 wasn't either. But regrettably Unwritten #6 did not convince me to buy this book monthly, and might actually deter me from buying the first trade in January. (Hint: Take a clue from your old pal Mark Waid here, DC/Vertigo!)


Review by Old Man

I really don't know how to score this book. I haven't been reading the book. From reading general comments, most people who read it love it, but I can't see why. One guy at the LCS today said he thinks the Harry Potter crowd would love this book, but I think it is something they would quickly lose interest in. It is too patchwork.

The background of the story is that the young magician Tommy has had a series of books written about him. Tom, who claims he is not Tommy, has moments of memory which appear to show the reader that Tom is indeed Tommy. Tom has run into a bit of trouble, and is sent to prison pending trial.

The first page and a half of this book is reviews telling the reader how good this book is. No, thanks, I don't like cum shots facials. Put this at the back of the book. Quit trying so hard to make me think I am about to have the greatest reading experience of all are creating high expectations that can't possibly be met.

At first glance, the second half of page two looks like it will be a re-cap. If it was re-cap, I didn't get it. Then there are about three pages of the Crusades. Then regular art starts. There are pages that are drawn/constructed to look like web sites and message boards. In some word balloons, names are underlined to look like links, which is really dumb because there is no way to follow a link in a printed book. I think this book is trying to be kewl. And I also cynically think this is why so many people are claiming to love this book -- 'Hey, Look! A comic book that looks like it is online!" In one scene, the prison warden is reading the adventures of Tommy to his kids. It is reminiscent of the scenes in Watchmen where the prison psychologist is in his home, scenes that were deemed unnecessary in the movie.

The art is rather bland. Uninteresting, even. The only pages that I found interesting enough were the pages with the witch and the last 2 pages. The parts of the story that were set in the Crusades, the stories of Tommy, were drawn better than the everyday scenes. The everyday scenes were dull.

In a scene set at the end of the book, Tom walks out of his prison cell during the night. Just walks out like the door wasn't locked. The cells are your basic Mayberry type cells. As drawn, there is a simple lock on the door, not the modern electronic locks that prisons have today. It's a convenient detail to leave out so that it doesn't get in the way of the overall story. If reality gets in the way, toss it out.

As I said at the top, I don't know how to rate this comic. I found it dull, maybe even pretentious. The art was uninspiring. But the book wasn't horrid, either. A 7 might indicate that I might like to read the next issue, so 7 is too high. A 3 or a 4 would indicate that I think it is a waste of time. So, I'm stuck with a 5 or a 6. I give it a 6, because that is how many goals the Buffalo Sabres laid on my Detroit Red Wings last night.

Review by amlah6

So The Unwritten #6 has something of a difficult task this week. I read the first issue and enjoyed it enough that I've pre-ordered the first trade, but it's early enough that I could still remove it from my order if this issue turned me off the series. There's also that problem I have with Mike Carey's work where I oftentimes find it to be boring and impenetrable and having not read the last 4 issues of this I'm coming into the story in the middle as it is.

I have to say, after reading this issue it is kind of impenetrable. I think stuff like the internet page can work if it's done right, but the way they used it in this was really overbearing. They could have ditched the Dear Abby thing completely and laid out the bottom left piece in a way that didn't have me reading so much worthless filler before I got to the Tommy Taylor blurb. I was really expecting to hate the comic at that point, but somewhere along the way I found myself enjoying the issue. I really dig the character of Harry... errr... Tom Taylor and the whole idea behind Unwritten is still really intriguing and that alone kept me interested.

The art has a really clean, smart look to it. I really like Peter Gross' work in this a lot. The colors were solid and Todd Klein rocked the lettering as always.

I'm still in for the first trade. This issue was mostly setup and yet somehow kept it vague enough for me to want to read the first volume to find out what actually happened but at the same time it gave me enough information to be able to read the series going forward.

Story: 7
Art: 8
Overall: 7.5

Review by starlord

I was really fascinated with the first issue of this and knew right away that I wanted this in a trade. It had that kind of feel to it. This issue solidifies that feeling for me. There's a deep, rich, fantastic world that Mike Carey and Peter Gross has created.

Even though I wasn't sure exactly what was going on, I got the gist of it and it's enough for me to know that I'm sold on this book, and can't wait for that first trade.

Story: 8
Art: 8
My Score: 8

Review by Punchy

Story - It's an interesting thing to review a book so soon again after reviewing its debut issue. It gives us the opportunity assess the series as a whole, as well as just this chapter. Has the book lived up the first issue? Or has it squandered it's potential? Thankfully, for The Unwritten, it's definitely the former, this, like #1 is a great comic.

The Unwritten has moved on from the initial concept of a Harry Potter analogue, to become a story about all literature, and our relationship to story, so it makes sense that when Tom Taylor goes to prison, it's a prison with literary connections, Donostia is built on the site of a battle which was immortalized in a Poem, 'The Song Of Roland', it's another piece of the enormous puzzle in this book, and it's certainly very tantalizing. The issue opens with an excerpt from the Poem, amazingly adapted by Gross, these sequences, such as the Frankenstein one and 'How the Whale Became' have become real highlights, and show Gross' versatility. The Unwritten has quickly become the book to come to for mysteries, like Y: The Last Man was before, we are reading because their are secrets and truths hidden in amongst the plot, and this 6th issue does a lot to advance existing mysteries, and even adds some new ones, it's masterfully done. We want to know what's up with Tommy himself and his origins, but also society who employed Pullman, and who is pulling Hexam's strings, and now what the hell is up with the Tattoo? It's very tantalizing stuff.

Carey also introduces a couple of new characters, such as Richard Savoy, Tom's cellmate, a hulking fellow prisoner and also a gruff Prison Warden, and they seem interesting, but who knows? In this book, they could be around for the whole run, or dead next issue, like those poor Horror writers, I think it is here that Peter Gross' art helps a lot, his clear cartooning makes all the characters distinctive and interesting.

The Unwritten has shown itself to be a book full to brim of ideas, and this issue contained one of my favorites, where Lizzy Hexam, a mysterious girl who may or not be Tom Taylor's 'Hermione' is getting instructions from whoever the hell it is she's working for, and the answers appear in random books she picks up a shelf, it was just a fantastic scene, and it also enhances the mystery and strength of story in this world. I must add that throughout the book there is a sense of humour, the Swiss judge palming off the case to France, the character of Savoy, The Unwritten doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's a good thing.

This issue also continues the use of epistolic material, Carey and Gross tell the story not just in panels and wordballons, but also full a whole spread of websites discussing the events, and it's really fun, Carey perfectly gets the voice of online help gurus, or internet trolls down pat (maybe he visited here for reference?) and it's an inventive idea more comics should try. This is even integrated with the regular comic structure, where much of the issue is narrated by a Blogger called 'Inside Man' (hey, that's the title of the arc! It's a double meaning, this guy, and Tom being inside prison, more subtle cleverness).

This was another fantastic chapter in the ongoing storyline, it kept things moving at a brisk pace, added more the mystery pot, and introduced some potentially great new characters, and that last page shows that even the flashbacks and quotes in this book... they matter. This is 2 creators at the top of their game, telling an intelligent, but not pretentious great yarn, which has something to say about the world, it’s just as good as #1. If not better.

Art - I've already brought up Gross in the main body of the review, so I'm at risk of repeating myself, but damn, he's awesome. I've mentioned the character designs, which are brimming with wit and fun, but I should also bring up how he adjusts his style for the opening flashback, it's subtle, but there are more lines, and the colouring by Chris Chuckry is more washed out, it looked like the Bayeux Tapestry in some ways. Superb.

Best Line - 'Whoops, Butter-Fingers'


Review by 48THRiLLS

This issue is takes place after the conclusion of the first story arc and after reading you get more questions and not too many answers. A lot of this book is shrouded in mystery such as where the hell did Frankenstein come from? Who is Lizzie communicating to through books? And what is her agenda? I know it has been said by others and I am just echoing the sentiment but this really does feel like the beginning of a truly classic comic book series and this issue is setting things up I cannot wait to find out. The art is beautiful, flashy... no, but Gross draws facial expressions perfectly and you can really see how the characters are feeling... and the coloring is outstanding, the prison scenes are dark and gritty and then you turn to the warden reading to his children and it is warm and colorful.

Things I liked:
-The communicating via reading books by Lizzie in the library was fun to see.
-The judge extraditing Tom to the French gave me a chuckle.
-Frankenstein and the winged cat at the end has me excited for the next ish.

Things I did not like:
-The whole scene with the plastic fork seemed forced, like that big motherfucker would back down to a plastic fork?

ART - 9

Review by PDH

In the sixth issue of Mike Carey's metatextual suspense story, Tommy Taylor's quasi-fictional life takes a turn down mind-fuck road as he finds himself wrongfully imprisoned for a killing spree perpetuated by the nefarious Pullman in issue four. It's a lie but in Tommy Taylor's world, truth and fiction are equally deadly.

Which makes me wonder...does the Tommy Taylor world have slash fiction? There are, after all, approximately one squillion stories written by excessively moist female Harry Potter fans on the internet in which virtually every conceivable pairing of male characters from the series indulge in unspeakable acts with each other. As Tommy Taylor's story continues to resemble the fiction on which he may or may not have been based, what happens when the slash fiction version of Draco Malfoy or Professor Snape shows up to forcibly re-enact the feverish diddling fantasies of hormonal thirteen years olds? That could get seriously awkward.

Anyway, this issue was fantastic. It's a risk telling a mystery in a serialized medium, especially if that medium is the perennially cancellation-happy medium of comic books where selling three copies of Super Boobs to an ever dwindling audience of forty year olds is considered a financial success and the mystery isn't fortunate enough to involve Wolverine in some capacity. It's like sticking your head into a guillotine and then thinking, 'Hey, this might be a good time to write my memoirs.' That and fans are increasingly impatient with the whole concept of mysteries, largely preferring to follow their favourite stories through spoilers weeks in advance of publication. Six issues in and Carey is still piling on the WTF, with little respite of clarification and that's refreshing. Blurting out all the plot developments, twists and surprises in the first issue is the equivalent of cumming on a girl's face five seconds after meeting her for the first time and then asking her to marry you.

The downside to this is that jumping straight in at this point is like trying to follow the German language version of TV series Lost in reverse order while the director's commentary to the TV series Fringe is played over the soundtrack at double speed. If you haven't been reading from the start, you're basically fucked, so I dunno, maybe you could try playing Swingball instead? That can be fun sometimes.

For the rest of us, though, this is an ever more rewarding read with each new issue. It's a pity we weren't able to review the last issue because that could actually have stood on its own terms fairly well and this is clearly chapter six in an ambitiously novelistic series. I know, I hate the word 'novelistic,' too. You couldn't do this series in a novel. You wouldn't have Peter Gross' wonderful art, for starters. Even though it's a book about words and literature, it would be an anemic, emaciated shadow of its former self without the wide range of bold, articulate drawings that Gross is able to bring to the table. It's a very comic-y comic book, much as it doesn't look like anything else on the stands right now. And for once, I actually don't think it would read better in trade form. It's an extremely well paced piece of serialized fiction. Track the previous issues down and follow it properly!

Story: 9
Art: 9
Overall: 9

Review by MrBlack

Despite having read issue #1 for the Review Group, I found it difficult to get into this issue. Initially, I skipped the "blog post" at the beginning of the issue, thinking that it was part of the reviews that make up the first page and a half of the issue, and so I did not have a clue what was going on in my first read. Having read it, and the other "news reports" a couple of pages into the issue, the story makes more sense. Still, is it too much to ask to give the summary its own separate page, rather than sticking it at the end of several reviews of the title?

Aside from that, this was clearly a transitional issue between the first arc and the second. Tom is introduced to his new roommate in the slammer, Captain Boomerang...I mean, Richard Savoy, stabs some dude in the face with a fork, and then meets Frankenstein and a flying cat.


The story has been pretty interesting so far, primarily because I do not have a damn clue what is going on. I worry that the story may lose some steam after some reveals are inevitably made, but he seems to be crafting an interesting cast for the book, so those worries may be unfounded.

The art is well done. Peter Gross' pencils are not the prettiest or most detailed I have seen (although the battle scene towards the beginning of the issue is very nice), but he does a great job of helping to tell the story through his art. Colorists Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee deserve praise for bringing subtly different color palettes to the different scenes in the book, which helps the reader to delineate between flashbacks and scene transitions, which is something that is not done often enough in comics.

It is hard to rate this as an individual comic, because it is clearly part of a larger story rather than something you would read on its own. Carey and Gross continue to craft an intriguing story, and I am interested in seeing where it goes.

Story: 8
Art: 7
Overall: 7.5

Review by Kerny


That sums it up for me. The concept has never grabbed me from the start. The literary allusions, references, and characters does nothing for me.

That's a shame really, because this is not badly written. Far from it, it's written very well, but if I have no interest, what can ya do? And I've wanted to like this. I bought and read the first 4 issues before deciding I had to cut it loose. This issue does nothing to change my mind. I did like the Browning stuff at the beginning though, because I'm a sucker for that poem because I'm a even bigger sucker for the Dark Tower series by Stephen King

The art is pretty good. You can tell what everyone feels by their facial expressions and everything is just detailed nicely. The use of webpages and blog type things in the story is also pretty cool to me

The praise pages at the front of the book annoyed me. One or two quotes is cool, but that was ridonkulious. I get it, people like a Mike Carey written Vertigo book. Who'd have thunk it Of course my annoyance probably comes from the fact that everyone but seemingly me likes this book, but I digress

Story 5
Art 8
Overall 6.5/10


Review by thefourthman

Damn it. I wish Carey were a better writer. I really do. I truly enjoyed the first five issues of this story. It was engrossing, magical and different. Carey wove a tale that took literature, both real and imagined, and blended with his new world to create a world where anything can happen.

Issue 5 was a brilliant stand alone issue that detailed Kipling's involvement with the society behind the scenes in this book. Now with this issue we return to the world of Tom. He is on trail for the deaths that happened at the house last seen in issue four. Problem is, as brilliant as five was, it killed the momentum of the story.

There is a slight recap here to catch up the reader, but it feels like a chapter is missing. I am not quite following why Tom is being blamed for this. I guess that is part of what issue five was for, was to show us that you don't fuck with the society, they will make you regret it. However, either because part of the narrative is missing or because this allusive bit of analogy from the last issue is supposed to explain it, or even worse, I have forgot - which should be simple in the graphic narrative, simple cues would recall the action I am missing -, here we find a story removed from itself. Regardless of why it feels that way, it feels that way and Carey's little tricks with web feeds and a blog from an insider only do more damage.

To make it worse, he starts throwing in the pot with the kitchen sink. Now Hexam is being guided by random books she asks questions too, there is a father (I believe from the society) reading Tom's stories to his kid m(a development I find most perplexing), and then Frankenstein reappears as manifest from earlier in the book, and to be honest the bit in the dark ages is completely lost on me... regardless of its origin or allegory, if the reader does not understand it, it is a problem.

It is starting to feel as if the magic in the book has no rules and while a great writer could resolve this, my experience with Carey is that this will only get worse... the loose strings and throw everything at the wall to see what sticks attitude will only magnify itself. This is what made reading his X-men run such a chore. Hopefully I am wrong. Hopefully he will tie it up neatly and intelligently.

Gross is doing his top notch work here. There is a distinction between the various realities of the world that helps us know what is real and what is story (or what was past as in last issue)... the script messes with this as well though as the distinctive look of the man reading the Tommy books to his child appears to differ from the modern setting of the book making me wonder if it is merely a different realm of now or some other thing altogether.

I'm all for mysteries and up until this issue, Carey has played the balance well between revelation and new world expanding narrative. Here he stumbles for the first time with this book. I only hope it is a stumble and that all my fears will be put to rest in the next issue.

Story 4
Art 8
Overall 6




That gives The Unwritten #6 a group score of 7.41

For further discussion about this week's book, feel free to join us in this week's thread ( found in the News Stand forum where you are also invited to post your own review.

MrBlack has the pick for October 21st and he has selected Azrael #1 from DC Comics.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to post your own review. 

Azrael #1

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Ramon Bachs

Following the events of "The Eighth Deadly Sin" in BATMAN ANNUAL #27 and DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #11, the new monthly series starring Death's Dark Knight begins! Michael Lane is a man in search of redemption, but does serving the Order of Purity as God's Angel of Justice bring him closer to achieving his goal – or simply send him further down a road paved with good intentions? When a hired killer comes to Gotham City seeking revenge for crimes committed decades in the past, Azrael faces an impossible conflict: What if God's justice forces the hero to claim one of God's servants? From writer Fabian Nicieza (SUPERMAN, TRINITY) and artist Ramon Bachs (RED ROBIN)!

Batman | 32pg. | Color | $2.99 US


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