This is one of my favourite comics going right now. Imagine if J.K. Rowling based Harry Potter after her son of the same name and then disappeared before the last book had been finished, and her son then grew into his 20s as a bitter Harry Potter Con regular living off his fame as a muse. That’s essentially how this series began – Wilson Tayler based his incredibly popular series on his son Tom Tayler, and Tom was drifting through life on that fame until the stories around him started coming to life.
The Unwritten Vol. 3 collects issues 13 to 18, and the writing and art has stayed as strong as ever. The most notable issue in this collection would be 17, which was done as a Choose Your Own Adventure. I used to love those novels, especially the Fighting Fantasy books by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson which were essentially CYOAs with stats and an inventory, so that was a lot of fun. It’s not something I’d want to do often, but it was neat to revisit.
Wikipedia linked to an interview Mike Carey did, where he had this to say when asked about the book’s influences:
Probably the most important reference point is the autobiography of Christopher Milne – who is famous as the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. Milne grew up feeling that his father had stolen his childhood from him, turned a profit from it and then given it back to him in a form he couldn’t use. Our Tom is very much in that situation when we first meet him, although we take his identity crisis a fair bit further than that.
But The Unwritten is a story about stories, and it has a whole sackful of great stories embedded in it. Frankenstein is a story we go back to again and again, always from a different angle. Moby Dick, the Just So Stories, The Song of Roland, Gilgamesh…we’re very eclectic with our borrowings.
Tom’s brooding in the series seems to have been justified, but my angst tolerance isn’t what it once was, so it’s nice that during this third volume he finally begins to stop being the whiny victim and starts to accept the circumstances he’s in.