The three immortals – Wilson, Rausch and Pullman – are moving toward their respective endgames. But when was the last time they were all in the same room together? Answer: half a century ago, in Oxford, England. And the reasons for what they’re doing now can be found in what they said to each other back then…
The penultimate story arc of The Unwritten: Apocalypse ended in ‘Sang’ Part III (last issue) with multiple endings and dazzlingly knotted plots and threads, in what is increasingly becoming a game of triple crossing and multiple jeopardy – but issue #9 tries setting the record straight, for lack of a better word, as we see a story and read another.
Dropping the current Tom Taylor storyline for the issue, we move back to a younger Taylor/Tallis, as he conveniently joins the mythology enthusiasts of Oxford, the Inklings. Mike Carey is not a stranger to tinkering with literature, and that is pretty much the scope of the series, but this particular twist is especially juicy, adorning Taylor with even more power and resources than we had seen so far. And then Pullman shows up. Followed by Madame Rausch.
The interaction between the different characters, their voices included, is well crafted, both with the Inklings and the fearsome threesome, and the parallel scripts used to show the extent of the characters’ powers are a well-executed example of the possibilities of comics as a medium. Taylor’s voice, however, is the most intriguing aspect of the issue, showing him as a new writer, a naive perhaps, manipulator of stories – with one, significant change in his tone towards the end.
The parallel scripts, of course, only work with the layouts and artwork of the co-plotter, Peter Gross. The pacing is really well done, and two pages in particular really stand out (including the final one). Additionally, Vince Locke’s finishes on the art really help in setting the time scale of the issue, and make the mythopoeic splash page look truly outstanding.
If possible, Chris Chuckry’s colours take that even further, contrasting the pub scenes with the ones showing Rausch, Pullman and Taylor in such a way that the latter are eerily appropriate to the events taking place. Todd Klein’s hand in the typewritten captions is subtle, but necessary to the duplicitous script, and there is one particularly well-placed sound effect that really jumps off the page.
As for the cover, as always by the excellent Yuko Shimizu, it serves as a very distinct reminder that yes, this is the book-shattering conclusion approaching, Tom is not the knight he could’ve been in ‘Sang’ – but there is something more in the image: what has Tom realised, that we haven’t yet?
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
With only three more issues to go, Inklings is a superb intake of breath before the plunge, delving back into the past and motives of the three key players, seemingly revealed at last. As the saying goes, though, the storyteller is not to be believed, only the story – and we’ve seen in this issue that we cannot trust those either; but thanks to the nature of the comics medium, we are able to view multiple sides of the same tale at once, however unreliable any of them may be. So follow the threads of what’s to come, but beware: there is no indication whether they’ll get you in or out of the labyrinth.
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #9 is now available in shops and digitally here.