“And I awoke, and found me here…”
Wilson Taylor delivers the apocalypse the only way he knows how: at his son Tom’s expense. It’s the end of the world as we know it. But there’s no need to worry because it’s just a story. Isn’t it? Don’t miss the extra-sized conclusion to the fan-favorite Vertigo series!
How do you write the ending to a story about stories ending the world? How do you wrap up meta-narratives, multiple plots, twisted storylines, intertextualities and gigantic apocalyptic schemes? According to Mike Carey and Peter Gross, you don’t. According to Tom Taylor, you let someone else do it for you. And the two, unsurprisingly, are the one and the same.
The third part of ‘Annals of Comparative Literature’ brings the arc, the Apocalypse chapter and the whole The Unwritten series to a close, and does so with a wonderful flourish of the pen (or other authorial tool) on the page (see previous bracket), and a refreshingly, candidly self-aware reflection on itself as a medium and a series. Characters live up to their descriptions, but not further, stories reach their conclusion, but not more than that, and most of all, the real puppeteers are exposed, reversed, unveiled and dragged down for one last time, in a surprisingly really quite moving sequence.
In the meantime, Carey also manages to voice several thoughts on the comics medium, its relationship to literature, the acceptance of it and experimental fiction in a wider literary canon. There are more quotations, explorations of dangling plots, voice shifts and some fantastic Pauly Bruckner contributions that definitely left me with a satisfied smirk on my face.
Peter Gross, in his co-plotting guise, really sets his skills loose on the script, adapting, twisting and capturing the end of the world that was, what came before, what came between and what will come with the turn of the page. Visual references abound, to external contexts (the human evolution panel is fantastically apt and deployed) and to other moments in the series. I am curious as to whether another artist worked on finished in certain sections of the issue, as no one else is credited but there are some definite callbacks to the Ship That Sank Twice OGN finishes and some of the work by Vince Locke and Al Davison – regardless, the effect is stunning, and the care and detail going into Wilson Taylor in particular is especially moving, throughout the entire issue.
Of course, the visual pleasure of the book, as always, would not be possible without the fantastic chromatic work of Chris Chuckry, who performs double plus good in this super-sized issue. Working with such complex layouts and basic patterns as deployed by Gross’ linework cannot be easy, at all, but once again, for one last time, he delivers. Todd Klein’s lettering performance in this issue was stellar. There are some many fonts, so much personality imbued in each and every other scene, due to its framing, to its context, to its moment in the narrative timeline and the ‘real’ timeline, that only one of the masters of the craft could have tackled it so magnificently.
And finally, but in no means as the least deserving of credit, is the mind behind the hands behind the face of the series as a whole, Yuko Shimizu. I have spoken to several comics readers who have not yet been absorbed by The Unwritten, but they all know Shimizu’s fantastic covers, and we all agreed on the poignant, powerful, sad and beautifully composed final cover, with Tom fading into – or out of – a book (you decide after reading).
Thoughts (May Contain Spoilers)
This is the actual end of the line, for a series that has followed me through the entirety of my higher education (sudden realisation, that). This is a final issue that manages to acknowledge what it is doing, that what it is doing is wonderfully original, is not afraid of saying so, and yet does not brag about it or inflate it to the point of exhaustion. This is an issue about the power of writing, of books, of comic books, the limits and constraints of canon, the loopholes that emerge from it. This is the story of characters trying to lose their author, in order for the story to continue its life. This is the story of a reader turned writer, unable to convince people and himself of a fictional reality, a world that never happened, never existed, and never will be – but who chooses to write it down anyway.
And in those words, in those images, lies the unspoken, unwritten power.
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #12 is available in shops and digitally here.