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‘The Unwritten’: The Grown-up Boy Wizard Comic Begins a Twice-Monthly ‘War of Words’

In the pages of The Unwritten, Mike Carey and Peter Gross have crafted a remarkable epic about the power of stories. (If you’ve yet to try it, Vertigo offers the first issue as a free download.) On one level the Vertigo Comics series is about the power of fiction to subtly shape the world around us through shifts in opinion and belief. On another level, as seen in the current “Tommy Taylor and the War of Words” arc, it’s about a grown man using magic pulled from the pages of Harry Potter-esque boy wizard books to battle an international shadow conspiracy devoted to controlling the world’s literature. Now, in a series of five bonus issues starting with the recent The Unwritten 31.5, those antagonists with take center stage in a twice-monthly “War of Words” event that will reveal the secrets of the Cabal.

The “War of Words” will unfold in ten issues total over five months, from issue #31 to issue #35. Regularly numbered issues will tell one long story about Tom’s war against the Cabal, while issues numbered “.5″ spin one-off tales about the history of the Cabal throughout time in settings like Ancient China, Medieval Germany, the American Civil War, and World War I.

Carey and Gross have built an engaging cast of characters and I’m thrilled by the chance to see more artists flesh out the shadowy edges of their world further. An extra issue per month of what’s become one of my favorite books ever published by Vertigo would be exciting on its own. More than that, though, whenever the focus of The Unwritten has strayed from Tom Taylor in the past, the result has been some of the best issues of an already exceptional series.

The first of these, a story of the Cabal’s involvement with the career of Rudyard Kipling in issue #5, was deservedly nominated for the Eisner for best single issue in 2010. In one issue, with minimal appearances from its main cast, the Kipling story delivered a remarkable tale. And it also set a tone for the series to come, hinting at the scale of the conflict with the Cabal with events stretching back over a hundred years and drawing in figures like Kipling and Mark Twain to illustrate the book’s ideas about the impact of stories.

Issues #12 and #24 were both one-shots following Pauly Bruckner, a Cabal hitman trapped in the body of a children’s storybook rabbit after ending up on the wrong side of Wilson Taylor. Pauly’s foul-mouthed adventures were darkly hilarious and thought provoking done-in-one stories that rank among the most enjoyable single issues of a great series. These issues all demonstrated that Carey could weave the themes of The Unwritten into a tightly constructed single issue story that left a lasting impression on the reader, and I can’t wait for five more opportunities for the same experience in the months to come.

If you’ve been as excited for each new issue of the series as I have, make sure not to miss issue 31.5, available for purchase in comic shops and digitally at ComiXology. And if you’ve been reading the series in trade, Carey’s ability to produce astounding one-shot stories might convince you it’s worth reading on an issue-by-issue basis.


Cover art to The Unwritten 31.5

Cover art to The Unwritten 32.5

Cover art to The Unwritten 33.5


Cover art to The Unwritten 34.5

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