I held out as long as I could, but after The Unwritten‘s super-intriguing start, I just couldn’t stay away! And it’s still super-intriguing and also baffling and also heartbreaking.
So last time there was Tom Taylor, the namesake of a bigger-than-but-basically-a-ripoff-of-Harry-Potter book franchise who is either not actually his father’s offspring and therefore not worthy of the Tommy Taylor franchise or actually Tommy Taylor and therefore an unknown-to-himself Man Wizard. Which is still pretty much where we are, sort of.
Now, at the end of the last book someone murdered a whole bunch of people and Tom was the only one around to take the blame, so this story arc takes place in a French prison overseen by a governor who is not sympathetic to minor celebrity. But the prison thing isn’t really important, what’s important is all the people in it. Tom makes unlikely friends and allies with some of the inmates and makes a huge enemy of the governor for what seems at first to be no reason at all. Except that then we go look at the events from the governor’s perspective and you find out that he has these kids who are obsessed with Tommy Taylor to the point of believing in his real and actual existence, and the governor is not pleased that Tom has effed things up big-time. Oh, and then those shadowy people from the last book decide to burn down the prison. No big.
Also, a trip to Nazi Germany via magical doorknob and an… interesting meeting with Josef Goebbels. Also, also, in the non-Tom comic at the end, an adventure with a foul-mouthed rabbit in a sort of Winnie-the-Pooh land. It’s all very delightful, really.
I think the best part about this series so far is that even with the ridiculousness and insanity, it’s all very literary. It loves literature and references it, in the form of the aforementioned Pooh spoof and an extended riff on the Song of Roland and of course all of the Harry Potter/fantasy-in-general allusions. It is also way more than its premise; sure, there’s adventure and potential wizardliness, but there’s also a lot to think about in terms of the role of media, the effect of childhood heroes on children and the adults who love them, and the magical power of attention. That middle one is what leads to the heartbreak in this volume, big time, as it does in real life.
I am definitely in for the next volume, and almost definitely for getting off my duff and patronizing my local comics shop for the issue-by-issue comics when the time comes. It’s good stuff.
Recommendation: Yeah, you’d better have that strong stomach for some of the violence in here, and also a strong heart. A love of the f-word can’t hurt, either.