Writers: Mike Carey & Bill Willingham
Artists: Peter Gross & Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Don’t call this is a crossover; it’s not. Even with the infusion of FABLES, at most I would say this is a spillover. But even that is too simple a description for the meta-highbrow antics of literal literature that is UNWRITTEN #50.
Here’s a real quick recap of the story thus far, which will surely obfuscate and obliterate all the wonderful layers Carey has added to this title over the years. Tis the life of a reviewer and the danger of Cliff’s Notes, but alas the PR must go on. Basically, UNWRITTEN is the story of Tom Taylor, a man who for years thought he was just the template for his father’s global best-selling book about a boy wizard. When UNWRITTEN started, I thought Carey was simply going to indict celebrity, as Tom’s whole life consisted of con appearances raping the legacy of his father for every penny it was worth. Despite being wicked smart, he never truly established his own identity. I should have known better, because quite quickly Tom Taylor’s Hermione, Lizzie Hexam, appears to remind Tom that those stories were real and Tom is in fact a real wizard, even if he can’t remember. OK, I thought, nice twist–but can this sustain a whole series? That’s when Carey introduced layer number three, the layer that makes stories real and started the race to save or thwart the literal embodiment of them, a creature named Leviathan. There’s of course more, much more to the UNWRITTEN tale, but this is the simple enough exploration to at least read this issue.
Now, why won’t I call this a crossover? Because this issue is really more of an Elseworlds for fans of FABLES. Also, I can’t remember a crossover where two creators so lovingly and expertly tackled each other’s titles in the same book. Tommy joins the FABLES universe smack dab in the middle of the Mister Dark arc. We all remember that time when desperation permeated all things FABLES and any last ditch efforts were tried. After a brief conjuration by the saltiest witches ever to grace the page, Tommy appears confused and bewildered. Geppetto, Ozma and Totenkinder, not being the warmest welcoming committee, give Tommy a bit of a baptism of fire getting him up to speed on their exiled situation mere moments before Dark’s legions mount another assault. Meanwhile, back in occupied Fabletown, Dark holds court with his “wife” by his side, the very Morticia Addams-looking Snow White. I don’t remember this moment from FABLES, nor do I remember Snow and thekids sadistically tormenting their husband and father Bigby with sadistic glee. There’s been a change to the fabric to reality; I don’t quite understand it all yet, nor do I think I’m supposed to. The book ends with the FABLES magicians transforming Tommy into his book counterpart and enlisting the aid of his stalwart companions. For them, this is just another adventure; for me the fate of two of my most cherished books hangs in the balance. Oh, we also get to see the possible resurrection of an old friend who would come blow his horn in times of trouble.
As for art, both Gross and Buckingham changed their styles to meld with one another. Gross had a little more fun with his often austere lines, and Buckingham tempered his propensity towards lushness (however, he did stick in a bit of his patented margin art). The result was a book where you could notice something happened, there was a switch, but it wasn’t jarring in the least.
This is the first time in recent memory where the Vertigo universe has had this kind of cohesion, and I have to say I’m a fan. I would never ask for shared continuity in the Vertigo universe, since its lifeblood is unfettered storytelling. However, UNWRITTEN 50 just makes sense. Tommy is forever saving stories, and lord knows the FABLES crew could have used some help during the Mister Dark days. I will say it offers a smidge of continuity confusion, but I think that’s simply because neither writer has played all of their cards just yet.
I honestly thought we were reaching the end with UNWRITTEN. Tommy learned who he was, learned the true impetus and nature of stories, and all of the bad guys appeared to have been beaten. With this FABLES infusion, though, we see yet another layer in the mind of Carey and the possibility for UNWRITTEN to written for years to come.