Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Unwritten: Inside Man

The Unwritten, Volume 2: The Inside Man  
Author/Artist: Mike Carey/Peter Gross
Publisher: Vertigo
American release date: August 17, 2010
Format/Genre/Length: Graphic Novel/Fantasy/168 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: Suggested for Mature readers
Overall Personal Rating: A+
Similar series or titles to check out: Sandman, Lucifer, Hellblazer

The internet is rife with rumors and accusations regarding Tom Taylor. Is he the rather boring son who lives in the shadow of his famous late father, living off of his memories? Or is he even Wilson Taylor’s son at all? Is Tom Taylor responsible for the slaughter at the Villa Diodati? Is he the incarnation of Tommy Taylor, boy wizard? And what about the stories of a flying cat—where do those fit in? The Inside Man wants to know.

While being taken by train to the prison Donostia at Maison d’Arrêt de Roncevaux, where the fictional Childe Roland was once taken, he meets a fellow prisoner, Savoy, who becomes his roommate. Tom is greeted by the warden, a family man named Chadron, who warns him not to expect special treatment because of his so-called celebrity status. Not that Tom does, it’s not like he’s ever asked for or wanted that. People just naturally seem to take it upon themselves to assume.

 Meanwhile, Lizzie Hexam is trying to figure out how to make up for her screw-up at the villa, and when she learns what she must do… well, let’s just say she isn’t exactly thrilled.

While cooling their heels in their cell, Tom tells Savoy the story of Childe Roland, and the infamy associated with this place they’ve been brought to, not because of the battle which was fought there but because of the story told about it. What’s really weird, though, is that Tom’s tattoo is back. Now if that isn’t crazy—a tattoo that can disappear and reappear at will?

Tom isn’t having an easy time of it. No one seems to hold to the idea that he’s innocent until proven guilty, and his so-called celebrity status isn’t helping any; he finds himself having to be more assertive than usual. Next door, in the warden’s home, are the warden’s wife and their two young children, Leon and Cosi, both of whom are devotees of Tommy Taylor the boy wizard. Their father has always fostered their fantasies, to the point where the children pretend to place wards, practice spells, and pretend to be students in the same magic conservatory that Tommy attends. Their mother finds this obsession rather unhealthy, and thinks that they need to see a professional, especially after a brutal incident at their school, but the warden sees nothing wrong with encouraging their imaginations to soar. Of course he hasn’t told them that he has Tom Taylor himself locked up in his prison.

In a curious twist of events, Tom wakens in the night to find his cell door open, so he wanders into the corridors, wondering what’s up. He confronts a figure which he is sure is a part of his imagination, but why does this creature insist that Tom called him into being? And what does that even mean? When the guards “discover” Tom out of his cell, it’s clear that they mean business, but their intent is thwarted by the arrival of Mingus. Kind of hard for Tom to deny the flying cat’s existence now.

The warden is involved up to his eyeballs, and things come to a head as he, Tom, Savoy, Lizzie, Mingus, Roland, and the warden’s kids have their moment with destiny—a moment which will end tragically for someone! Afterwards, Tom and Lizzie and Savoy find themselves in 1940 Stuttgart, in what appears to be a scene from Jud Süss—a novel written by a Jewish author which was turned into Nazi propaganda by Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Things are starting to make sense in a very warped and twisted way. Will they figure it all out before or after they cause irreparable harm?

In Willowbank Tales, we meet a rabbit named Mr. Bun. Or is it Pauly Bruckner? He says it’s Pauly, but everyone else calls him Mr. Bun. Hmmmm. As he sets off for the edge of the wood, he snarls and snipes at every woodland creature he meets in language most foul. All he wants is to get out of this place, and be himself again. Is that so much to ask? He goes to see a squirrel called Nutshell, who has information that he needs. Even if he has gone native. Mr. Bun/Pauly wants to know about the house where Eliza Mae Hertford lived, author of Willowbank Tales. He’s sure he will find the answers he needs there.

Be careful what you wish for, ‘cause you might surely get it.

The second volume of Unwritten is even more fascinating than the first, as we dive deeper into the mystery surrounding Tom Taylor. Pieces are starting to fit together, and things are starting to make sense, and nothing is necessarily what it appears to be. The artwork is first rate, and very well done.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the series and can’t wait to read the next volume.

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