I hope someday I’m smart enough to love Unwritten: Apocalypse. Perhaps it’ll happen if I ever get around to reading all the literary texts and theory that it alludes to, as well as the bulk of the preceding main comic, which has been on my to-read list since finishing volume two and recognizing that someday I’d want to have the series in beautiful leather-bound hardcovers ala Ron Burgundy, and “Eww, do I hate these cheaply made trades.” For now though, I just really like Unwritten: Apocalypse. I like how ambitious of a project it was, and what it explores about storytelling and the purported divides between fiction and reality. And somehow Mike Carey and Peter Gross manage this feat while making me wholeheartedly invested in its characters whether it’s the divided Tom Taylor, his tortured dad Wilson, the lit brainiac Liz, Richie, and Mr. Bun, the greatest anthropomorphic rabbit since the White Rabbit. By issue’s end, I felt satisfied with where things had ended up for these characters who doubtlessly have gone on in their worlds to have infinitely more adventures, both mundane and fantastical. After last issue ended with the world blanking, blanking not dissolving, immediate not gradual, out into whiteness following Pullman’s blowing of the Holy Grail trumpet, I had no idea where things would pick up this issue. It makes sense then that where we start off here is back in the most ordinary and meta of circumstances, an exhausted Wilson returning home to a message from his literary agent saying that his The Unwritten manuscript isn’t publishable. From there we return to the white-out, and then to the start of the universe, and eventually to the cave from last issue where we get to see just what plans Tom and Wilson made prior to their last encounter with Pullman and Madame Rusch.
The plan they come up with ultimately proves just how skillful Wilson was at crafting Tom into a hero, leading to a climax that ends things between Tom, Pullman and Madame Rusch with a chat before they’re joined by one of my favorite literary animals. It’s an end to the comic’s main plot conflict that feels appropriate given its tendency to wink at tropes before kicking them in the ass through a chalk portal.
What I most like about Unwritten though is that the quest of its protagonist was not to destroy its primary antagonists, who are sympathetic in their own right despite how screwed up they are, but to heal The Leviathan, a super-being that allows all stories to exists. This focus on healing as a quest really appeals to me and I think it would to many readers who have been exhausted on the idea of stories ending when one person punches out another. And better yet, Carey and Gross never make this act an overly sentimental one, allowing the characters to interact with one another in a way that’s natural to them while never infringing into the story to deliver a moral.
Things end up mostly well for the characters in this comic, but I’m happy that it doesn’t try to seal things up neatly. The last few pages show that while the outcome of the final battle allows most of the characters a shot at happiness, there are yet no guarantees that it’ll all turn out well, not even for Mr. Bun. And as Wilson descends in search of Tom, I’m hopeful that the story of his redemption is going along swimmingly wherever he is.
Writers: Mike Carey Artist: Peter Gross Publisher: Vertigo Comics Price: $4.99 Release Date: 1/28/15 Format: Mini-Series