Home / Books / Graphic Novel Review: The Unwritten 1 — Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Graphic Novel Review: The Unwritten 1 — Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

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The life of Tom Taylor is falling apart. He’s a failing actor, failing musician, failing novelist. As his slick, slightly devilish and way too knowledgeable personal manager points out, “Nothing seems to stick.” Tom is also the son of an extremely famous novelist, the writer of the successful book series featuring the fictional boy wizard Tommy Taylor (obviously inspired by the real Tom as a child), much like Harry Potter, only way more successful.

The fact that our real Tom is completely identified by the millions of fans worldwide with the fictional Tommy doesn’t help at all in Tom’s growing crisis of identity. Attending the annual fantasy convention, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans could get downright humiliating for Tom, considering he’s just riding his father’s success; but as pointed out — again, by his personal manager, “It’s steady money.”

Tom’s famous father disappeared over a decade ago, never to be seen again. To make things even weirder, a series of strange events accumulate in the annual fantasy convention. These involve the appearance of a crazy fan pretending to be the evil vampire Count Ambrosio from the books and a young student named Lizzie Hexam who publicly exposes new disturbing information concerning Tom’s very existence: Tom's bogus social security number, false childhood photos and Bosnian immigrants who claim to be Tom’s real parents.

As circumstances roll downhill from confusing to dangerous — from fans worldwide believing Tom is indeed magical Tommy, to kidnappings, murders and all sorts of supernatural craziness — Tom decides to enroll in his own private investigation to shed new light on his origins, and also try to separate — or is it integrate?  — fantasy from reality.

The Unwritten is the new ongoing comic series by Mike Carey, who seems to take special liking to the genre of supernatural mystery, leaking into contemporary daily life, usually set in London. Carey is a real master of the written word — he creates believable dialog, While intelligent and sophisticated, he never overdoes sarcasm or drama. He always maintains a graceful simplicity, even when using up-to-date foul language.

Vertigo's The UnwrittenMany funny moments are planted along the story, such as Tom telling his personal manager that he’s losing “his last shreds of dignity.” Just before saying this, he poses to photograph with an underage fan, completely unaware that the snapshot caught a questionable Tommy Taylor’s merchandise poster of sexual content, titling “Tommy’s magic Horn.” It made me smile.

If you’d corner me to a wall (or even if you didn’t) and ask me what I liked less about this new comic, through, I’d have to go with its derivative elements.  I find that fantasy fiction building on real cultural phenomenons like Harry Potter is somewhat tiring. Also, the massive integration of classic literature references, may be solid proof of the writer’s appreciation to literature, and how stories are REAL once conceived in the delirious minds of their authors, but it does not appeal just as much to me. I rather have my fantasy less rooted in reality.

The art by Peter Gross is very clear and easy to follow, a much appreciated trait in graphic novels. His style:  pencil-like drawings, with uniform bulk coloring. The main character of Tom Taylor was nicely depicted and very lovable, but I did find myself craving for a few colorful and lush panels, to spice up the monastic drawings.

With a forward by Bill Willingham (writer of Fables), a nicely furnished plot in between, and an original tale about Rudyard Kipling at the end of the volume, l find this graphic novel especially fit for adult readers who have read and loved all the oldie-but-goodies classic literature and are okay with contemporary real-life based fantasy.

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About Eilonvi

  • This comment is posted per pro the author:

    Hey Turtlelaugh – Thanks!

    Hi Pedro – much the same here – I appreciated the references to other works of literature, but didn’t find myself reading the rest of the series… for now.

  • Pedro C.

    I’m not personally interested in this series, but I do recognize it’s an interesting piece of meta-fiction with some fresh ideas thrown in. Anyone who enjoys literature will surely appreciate all the references in literary geography!

  • thanks for the review and I agree – fantasy should include min “real life” stuff.