In a dark land ruled by a crippled king, Tom Taylor searches for the one thing that can save the world – but only the pure of heart can even see it. And it probably never existed in the first place. And maybe the whole quest is a trap that’s just been waiting for him to arrive…
We left the main cast of The Unwritten as they were Dürered up in Tom’s fight with Count Ambrosio, in Peter Gross’ excellent rendition of an engraving, as the writing echoed Arthurian cycles and chansons de geste – and that is exactly where we meet them again in Apocalypse #7: mid-battle, mid-strophe, mid-story, mid-arc, with ‘Sang’.
I retract what I said about Savoy last time, he is, in fact, more despicable than scoundrel, Lizzie is still an excellent character, who shines through her tropes and genre conventions quite easily. There are a couple of entirely surprising, and even shocking, twists (think of a rusty knife in an infected wound), highlighting the complex games of whatever-it-is-they’re-playing of the various demiurges in the issue, from Pullman, to Paulie, to Rausch, to Taylor.. to the plotters.
Carey cleverly appropriates a history of Western literature to suit his (?) needs, dabbling with epics, chivalry, patriarchal systems and lore, to deliver one of the darkest plots since Chadron/Ambrosio and his kids, throwing in some more multilingual switches and referencing ends that still hang loose from before the Fables crossover.
The artwork, moving in parallel with the story, is brilliantly switching between the engraved style and the contemporary Peter Gross, mirroring the flickering of realities in the story in yet another way since issue #1. And we also get the stunning, yet gut-wrenching, finishes by Al Davison for the Paulie and Pullman section, and the goosebump-inducing work by Dean Ormston for Rausch and her ‘children’.
The flickering is masterfully managed by Chris Chuckry and his colours, with the pervasive sepia tones working with the engravings, and some muted but otherwise nicely saturated hues for the contemporary look (even on sepia backgrounds); if at all possible, in a tale this bleak, the Pullman section is particularly gorgeous. And letterer Todd Klein clearly had fun with the lettering, with multiple fonts in captions, personalised speech-bubbles and some excellent thumping sounds.
Where Yuko Shimizu’s cover went sepia-scale last month, it returns in full, blazing glory this issue, as the quest for the maanim continues in an ominous – and fitting – flaming background, and a horse the stuff of nightmares, mounted by an eerily shining knight.
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
This is a twisted issue, in many many ways – one of the reasons why it’s taken me some days to review it – and one that can and might unsettle readers in terms of narrative, themes and plot-points, as well as visual switches in styles and art, with an overarching sense of inevitability and manipulation that does not bode well for the series as a whole (it is subtitled Apocalypse, after all). I have no idea at this point what will happen next, but I do hope there will be a chance to explore some of the more questionable practices pulled out by the demiurges, all of them, this month as the series progresses. I’m onto you, all of you.
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #7 is now available in shops and digitally here. Also available is the collected Volume 9, The Unwritten Fables.