Weekend Shorts: Unwritten Marvels

The Unwritten, Vol. 9: “The Unwritten Fables”, by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross, and Mark Buckingham
The Unwritten, Vol. 9Oh, hey, The Unwritten! After finishing up all those single issues, I came back to the trades just in time for the crossover with Fables, which I tried once and almost never read comics again. That’s an exaggeration. But I was still hesitant.

Luckily, things in this volume are so incredibly crazy-pants that any problems I might have had were swallowed up in me staring, baffled, at the book in front of me. I don’t really remember what happened in that first volume of Fables, but at this point in the story things have gone all to shit, apparently, and some old lady (I think she’s the witch from “Hansel and Gretel”?) decides to summon some help in the war between the Fables (the people, that is) and this new bad guy overlord. Instead, she gets Tom Taylor, who was on his way somewhere else, but when you’re summoned to a weird storyland, you go, I guess.

And when he gets there, he’s all, “Y’all are just stories!” and “I’m not Tommy Taylor!” and I am like TOM TAYLOR YOU ARE AN IDIOT. I mean, maybe it’s just for the purposes of the crossover, but come on, dude, you know better.

Well, whatever, he gets thrown into the action soon enough, and there is plenty of action to go around, with plans and counter-plans and counter-counter-plans and plans going well just to be foiled, but are they really foiled?, and so on. It was definitely a page-turning volume and full of WTF-ery, but man, I hope the next volume dials back on the complexity. My brain just can’t even.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: “Crushed”, by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3So, yeah. After the wonderfulness of the last volume, I ordered this one up from my local comic shop immediately. I walked over to pick it up last week and only my audiobook and the weirdly low-hanging branches along my route kept me from starting it on my walk home. Instead, I started it as soon as I got there!

Sooooooo basically I’m super in love with Kamala Khan, much as her friend Bruno is, and I would totally take her to the Valentine’s Day dance that is the subject of the special one-off issue at the beginning of this volume. But I’m glad I didn’t have the chance, because Loki shows up for reasons I don’t really understand (I’m guessing they are part of the larger Marvel Universe) and Ms. Marvel lays a serious smackdown on him. Yay Kamala!

Then, in the next three issues, Kamala gets a bit of a crush herself, on the son of some old family friends who is just as into World of Battlecraft and Bollywood movies as Kamala is. Further, it turns out that he’s Inhuman as well, which we all find out after Ms. Marvel takes down another Inhuman who thinks the status quo sucks and wants to go all Epic on Jersey City. Seems the Inhumans are having a bit of a family tiff, and Ms. Marvel is stuck in the middle of it.

THEN, omg, it’s JEMMA SIMMONS. I’m kind of pissed at her in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. right now, but I’m just pretending she’s season one Simmons here and rolling with it. In a much better crossover than that one up above, Simmons and Coulson show up at Kamala’s school to rescue some alien technology or whatever, and Ms. Marvel is like YES PLEASE ME TOO I’M ON IT. The agents are like, dude, no, stay out of it, but of course that’s just catnip to a teenage superhero and Ms. Marvel saves the day in hilarious fashion.

I know it’s what they want, but I may seriously have to check out the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic. Are they all as awesome as this one?

Weekend Shorts: The Unwritten

Holy crap I’ve made it through all of the single issues of The Unwritten that were clogging up my bookshelf! A victory dance is in order! Now onto the trades!

The Unwritten, #47-49: “Orpheus in the Underworld”, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
The Unwritten #47It’s Mr. Bun! Mr. Bun is back! Mr. Bun is back and badder than ever, as it seems he has usurped the Lord of the Underworld (aka Hades). This… this may be a problem.

The Unwritten #48This three-issue arc brings us back to our old pal Tommy, who is wandering the Underworld without his memories but with a vague sense of having something he needs to do. He’s still travelling with our favorite small dead children, who smartly don’t trust Mr. Bun, and as he wanders Mr. Bun’s castle he starts to remember who he’s looking for and who he’s been trying to avoid. They’re all, of course, hanging out in the Underworld, so we also get to see Lizzie again as well as (spoilers?) Wilson Taylor (!!) and Pullman (!!!), and we also get to find out just how Mr. Bun ended up the sad sack that he is.

The Unwritten #49In the final issue of this arc, Pullman tries to sway Tom to his side, but instead Tom decides to take matters into his own hands, invoke the title story, and try to find out just what’s running the machinery of everyone’s lives, but it seems that before he can he gets nabbed by some characters from Fables just in time for the crossover event. I didn’t particularly like

Weekend Shorts: Wicked, Divine, and Unwritten

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: “The Faust Act”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 1I had heard vague good things about this book around the internets, but not enough to really get me interested. But then I was at the comic shop getting other things and I asked the guy at the counter what he thought about it and he was like, “It’s fantastic, you should buy it immediately.” He was not wrong.

The conceit of this story is that various gods incarnate themselves into the bodies of more or less ordinary twenty-somethings for two years every 90 years, because sure, why not? In their 2014 bodies, the gods are literal rock stars, performing and giving interviews and being totally open and honest about their godly status, but of course no one really believes them. Except maybe for Laura, a groupie who ends up in the right place at the right time to see Luci (slash Lucifer) snap her fingers and explode a couple of dudes’ heads. When Luci is arrested and the other gods more or less abandon her, Laura does everything she can to help out.

This is a fantastic book, starting with the super pretty artwork that I just need to have all over my walls, like, immediately. Look at these covers, people! So gorgeous. And then also it’s neat to see gods from all the different religions (some of whom could be from several religions all by themselves) hanging out doing their god thing, and then even better there’s an intrepid girl reporter on the case who is probably going to be majorly pissed when she finds out these gods are for reals. I’m super in love.

The Unwritten, Issues 45 and 46: “The Corpse Harvest Reiteration”
The Unwritten #45It has been an absurdly long time since I delved into the world of The Unwritten, and I was more than a little worried that I might have forgotten everything. Luckily I found myself at the start of a little two-issue run wherein 1) the action focused mostly not on the overarching plot and 2) our favorite vampire spent a page explaining the important stuff. Thanks, Richie!

The Unwritten #46So in this set of issues, Richie is feeling bad for himself and Didge is doing her police thing, and then the two of them join forces when a little kid loses first his babysitters and then his dad in freak deaths that have brain damage as the common link between them. Turns out the kid is writing stories that come true, and although he’s not explicitly writing anyone into these stories the people he’s basing them on end up in big trouble. It seems that the story world, once thought a bit dead, may be only mostly dead.

I am super excited to get back into this series, which is good because I have a pile of issues and trades lying around for it!

What fantastic short stuff are you reading this weekend?

Weekend Shorts: The Unwritten #43-44

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, largely because I’ve been spending all of my free time reading some pretty awesome full-size books. But then I looked at my towering pile of unread comics and thought it might perhaps be a good idea to read some of those before I became buried under them! But then after reading two of them I had more long books to read, so… that’s what you get this week! Perhaps more later?

Unwritten #43: “Wheels Within Wheels, Fires Within Fires”
Issue 43So at the end of the last issue, this giant bear showed up with some raccoon/mole/rodent-type friends, and I was like, um. But right at the beginning of this issue said giant bear calls Tom Taylor “a big, featherless chicken,” and as such this bear is my new best friend. This bear gets into a couple of cleaver fights with his friends and with Tom before being dispatched by our old friend Baron von Munchausen, who helps Tom figure out what’s going on and then attaches himself to Tom’s quest to save Lizzie. It definitely feels like a bit of a filler issue, mostly exposition, but the supporting characters offer enough humor (and anti-humor) to keep things interesting.

Unwritten #44: “Halfway Through the Journey”
Issue 44Which is good, because the humor falls right out of the story in this issue. Tom has made his way to the land of the dead in search of Lizzie, but first he loses his memory and meets up with some kids we’ve known for quite a while now and who I am glad are more or less okay. We get a nice little tour of the underworld of Greek myth, meet a few people from Tom’s past, and then get a surprise appearance from one of my favorite characters in this series (yay!). I am excited to get back to these comics, whenever that happens…

The Unwritten Vol. 7, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 7I was really excited to see this volume come into my library so close on the heels of finally reading the previous collection, so much so that I coerced (read: said please to) the cataloger in charge of it to put a hold on it for me as soon as she could, you know, just in case there was a run on it. Relatedly, why isn’t there a run on this series? It is so many kinds of awesome!

If you will recall, last time around I was a little boggled by the sheer number of stories in the collection, so I was very glad to see that there were just a few straightforward issues in this one. And it starts with my favorite horrible person, Mr. Bun, whose presence was sorely lacking last time, so all is forgiven! Oh, Mr. Bun, you are such an awful human bunny.

So, yes. In the first story, we see Mr. Bun hanging out with The Tinker, whose story I don’t quite remember but whose costume is amusing. They get caught up in a bit of a mass exodus from… fiction, I guess, and it seems like things in the land of stories are about to be going very terribly.

Then we head back to the land of the mostly non-fictional and meet up with a badass Australian aboriginal detective who is basically my new favorite character. She’s investigating a weird cult devoted to Tommy Taylor as lord and savior, and she meets up with our good friend what’s-his-face from the Grid, who has come from England to join up with the cult for some reason or other. Things get very culty, and then they get awesome with a unicorn and the return of Pullman’s hand and a very odd one-man show.

The last story is… I’m not sure where it fits, chronologically, so it’s a bit confusing. I may need to go back to the last couple of volumes and see if I can figure that one out. Or maybe Scott will remember when he finishes it — a benefit of reading things with other people!

I definitely liked what this set of stories did, especially with the whole badass detective thing, because I’m a sucker for detectives who don’t quite follow the rules. I also think the [spoiler] that happens to said detective could be very interesting for future stories. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, so much so that I may have already stocked up on those single issues I keep threatening to buy. Oh, money, I will miss you so. But on the plus side, I don’t have to wait eight million years to read the next issues!

Recommendation: As always, I say go find this series and start reading it!

Rating: 9/10

The Unwritten Vol. 6, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten, Vol. 6Finally, almost a year after the last one, this volume of The Unwritten made it into my library and then into my excited hands. Yay! Unfortunately, I had largely forgotten what was going on in the last volume, and this one is not terribly helpful in that regard. Boo.

This is a really thick collection, with something like ten individual issues, or half-issues, or I don’t know what’s going on with the number here, inside it. And so the stories end up going all over the place, half with Tom & Co. and the other half delving hardcore into the history of this whole storytelling thing, with Pullman and the marionette lady and a giant fish thing and a bunch of tertiary storytellers and the cabal and the people who run the grid and why couldn’t we have gone back to that evil Mr. Bun while we were at it?

That’s not to say I didn’t like the stories, because they were all quite good in their own right, it’s just the first time the collection as a whole seemed to lack some cohesion. I know, I know, they’re comics, not novels, and after my success in reading The Human Division in tiny episode form maybe I can convince myself to shell out for the monthly versions? Maaaaybe.

Anyway, parts I liked include the vengeful but sort of moral Tommy, the bit with the editorial cartoonist (because seriously, it’s probably pretty true!), the attempt to read Tommy into oblivion, the marionette girl, and the last story with the Grid employee — surprisingly not a lot of the straight Tom & Co. stories! I’m always a fan of getting some good backstory, and the new stories (like the last one) promise a lot of intrigue to come. I think the next big volume is set to come out soon, so I’ll probably wait for that at my library and then think about getting into the issues.

Recommendation: I certainly wouldn’t start here; go enjoy Volume 1 first!

Rating: 7.5/10

The Unwritten Vol. 5, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 5Every time I get a new trade of The Unwritten, I try to leave it sitting on my table for a couple days so that I can at least seem like a patient person. But a certain husband of mine saw it waiting for me, snatched it up, and read it first like a MEANIE. So I had to read it right afterward so he couldn’t spoil it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

It’s wonderful, as though you’d expect me to say anything else at this point. It starts with a heist, which is one of my many story-related weaknesses, and then it reminds us about Tom’s effed-up childhood, and then it lays out some very intriguing backstory for Tom’s dad, and the cabal people are killin’ lots of other people and there is a child made out of comic-book superhero (yes, you read that right) and it is cah-razy up in here.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a bumper issue or whatever you might call it at the end of this volume, something like the Mr. Bun tales or the creepy Choose Your Own Adventure that would give me a diversion from the fact that I have to wait months for the next set to arrive in my library! But, on the other hand, extra story and extra questions just waiting to be answered those many months from now. 🙂

Recommendation: Seriously, why haven’t you already started reading this series?

Rating: 9/10

The Unwritten Vol. 4, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Dear The Unwritten,

I love you so much. Let’s run off together.

Love, Alison
p.s. It’s cool if my husband comes too, right?

LeviathanI will grant that on its own, this volume was not quite as good as any of the first three, especially that last one with the parodies and the choose-your-own-adventure-ness. Dang, that was a good one. But it’s not really like those other ones anyway… we’re done with the “Is Tom Taylor actually Tommy Taylor? With, like, magic and stuff?” plotline and we are moving fully into “Is the world just entirely made of imagination?” existentialism. And vampires, because why not?

In this collection, aptly titled Leviathan, Carey and Gross treat us to a whale of a party, ha ha! Ahem. There are whales, is what I’m saying. A few of them. Including the ever-popular Moby Dick, whose story Tom ventures into and then breaks and then escapes only to find himself hanging out with Sinbad, Pinocchio, and various others inside an apparently very hungry whale. And then things explode.

Oh, and meanwhile our friends Richie and Lizzie only wish they were hanging out in the belly of a whale, on account of they’ve met up with a mean and slightly magical puppeteer who needs some information out of them. Things go as you might expect, there. And then at the end we meet up again with that foul-mouthed rabbit dude from the second volume, who has not gotten any pleasanter but has gotten some worshippers. Goody.

And there are so many other little things that have me intrigued to see where this story goes. It is clearly epic and intricate and fantastic. But I could also go for some more stories that are just full of awesome brain candy. Either way is good.

Rating: 8/10

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)