The Unwritten Vol. 3, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Nooooo I forgot to pace myself and now I have to wait some unknown amount of time for the next volume! Nuts! But my husband got his hands on it and he’s the type of person who accidentally spoils things on a regular basis, so really I had to read it. Had to.

And it is so fantastic. Even if you don’t want to read this series, track down this volume at your library and find the page with the amusingly terrible rip-off of His Dark Materials. And then flip forward to the other page that looks like that one and that gets in a dig at George Lucas with a reference to “meta-condrians.” Totally worth it.

Other things that are totally worth it: one of the issues that makes up this collection is a Choose Your Own Adventure. Did I mention FANTASTIC? My husband and I proved our perfectness for each other by choosing the exact same path through the story (we apparently are fans of evil evilness), but I also went back and read through a few other iterations and a) they were all interesting and b) some paths made sly winks at other paths that you wouldn’t notice except if you read them all. Oh, AND, the whole point of the choosing of your own adventure is to make the point that you, you know, get to do that with your life. Hands-on morals? How intriguing.

Story, you say? There is one, but why aren’t you just reading it? Seriously. Okay, fine.

Our friend Tom is presumed dead but still on the run from the Shadowy People. Someone has written a terrible fourteenth (yes, fourteenth) Tommy Taylor book and even though the publishing house knows that it wasn’t Tom’s dad, they’re totes willing to make a jillionty-twelve dollars off of it. It includes the aforementioned scene with Lord Gabriel explaining Powder to Tommy Taylor. Oh, yes. It turns out that the SPs wrote it to bring Wilson Taylor out of hiding, which may or may not end up working. Also, we find out who Tom’s mum is and we sort of find out what Lizzie Hexam’s deal is (“sort of” because part of it is the CYOA). And if they’re giving away all this information now, I am very interested in finding out what they aren’t telling me!

I’ll just wait here, impatiently, until I can find out.

Recommendation: For people who don’t mind parodies of beloved children’s fantasy series, people who like to choose their own adventures, and fans of the garrote.

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge)

The Unwritten Vol. 2, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

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.

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge)

The Unwritten Vol. 1, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

I don’t remember where I first heard about this series… one of those blogs or podcasts or something that tells me what’s good. I don’t remember what I was promised, either, but whatever it was I liked it enough to give it a shot.

That forgetting posed a bit of a problem in the first few pages, which I read and thought, “Whaaaaaaaaat is this? This is not very good. What’s with all these words? It’s a graphic novel!” And I really almost gave it up right then, but I said to myself, I said self, you’ve done this before and maybe you should just give it a little bit longer.

And of course, I was right. The second time, with the reading just one more page. Because it turns out that first three pages or whatever are meant to be pages from a not-graphic novel series that is like Harry Potter et al. and therefore is written as a send-up of Harry Potter et al. And once I figured that out, I was much happier!

The real novel, the graphic one, is about this fella called Tom Taylor whose father wrote the aforementioned series that instead of Harry Potter is Tommy Taylor. Tom is emphatically not Tommy, but is still making a living going around to all the cons and whatnot signing Tommy Taylor signatures and talking about his father’s work, which his father can’t do because he’s gone mysteriously missing, or possibly just abandoned everyone. And right now Tom has two opposing problems causing him no end of trouble — a group of people who think he’s not really Tommy Taylor but some kid his father absconded with to make himself look good, and another group that thinks he’s totally Tommy Taylor, magical wizardry and all. And some people in that last group would really rather him dead…

There’s so much to this story, I’ve barely cracked the surface of it, which makes sense considering these are just the first 5 comics of an ongoing series. But other interesting things so far are Tom’s obsession (given to him by his father) for literary locations, a mysterious staircase that has more stairs going down than coming up, people possibly made of words, and some revisionist-history backstory involving Rudyard Kipling.

I may or may not have gone right out the day after reading this volume to get the other two that currently exist. I might have to track down a comic shop if I get through those too quickly…

Recommendation: So far, I’d recommend for people with a good sense of humor about fantasy conventions and a slightly strong stomach.

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge, A to Z Challenge)