We’ve started getting some graphic novels for our collection at the library, and this is a bit of a mixed blessing for me. For one, we get a lot of stuff that probably doesn’t belong in a technical college library – the Alex Rider series, the Artemis Fowl series, and some Classics Illustrated volumes — but at the same time, some of the stuff catches my eye. I’ve been out of comics for a long time, so I don’t keep up with this sort of stuff as much as I used to, and about the only way I find out about the new stuff is by coming across them like this. So while I question the necessity of such a collection at our library, I can’t really complain too much, since it helps me discover things like The Unwritten.
This is another ongoing series of literature-based fantasy, along the lines of Fables (Bill Willingham acknowledges this himself in the foreword to the book), only this one is a little bit different. Even without reading the summary of this volume off the back of the book, it’s pretty easy to figure out where the story’s headed, even as it gets started. Tommy Taylor is the son of a famous writer, who, like Christopher Milne, is the source for a character in a series of novels that are very similar to Harry Potter. His father disappeared when he was young, and since then, Tom Taylor has made a small living off of appearances to fans. Things start to take a weird turn when, during an appearance, someone in the crowd makes allegations that he is not who he says he is, and even offers some evidence to back up the accusation. The story is told in such a way as to suggest that, even if this is true, Tom isn’t out to dupe anyone, but the backlash begins almost immediately, and this sets him off on a course to try to figure out what’s going on.
I won’t say any more about the story itself, because I think it’s worth discovering. Since this is the first collection of a new series, the entire thing is very much an expositionary story, but there’s a small plot moving the entire thing forward. This is both good and bad. The bad is that the story doesn’t move too quickly, as the author is taking the time to get his characters developed, and nothing is really resolved by the end of the volume; the good is that the volume moves along at a slower, more deliberate pace, and it’s good for understanding the different characters and who they are. Plus, the idea behind the series is enough to keep me interested, enough so that I’m glad to see that we currently have the second volume of the series on order for the library!
I should warn you, though, that this is the series that puts the “graphic” back into “graphic novel”; it’s almost at Preacher-like intensity, and while it doesn’t seem as gratuitous here as it did there, it’s still pretty prevalent. I almost wish that the creators had gone with a more subtle approach to the violence, but it’s not so bad as to turn me off from the series entirely. Still, I feel like it’s necessary to point that out, just in case.