The Unwritten

wilsoknut.comIt’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have extra time on my hands with the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and what not. If you have extra time on your hands and you want to get lost in a story, you can’t go wrong with The Unwritten. There are 11 volumes of this epic, and it will pull you in and transport you to oh so many places. The Unwritten has everything you can think of—adventure, fantasy, post-modern social commentary, metafiction, comedy, on and on.

Tommy Taylor & the Bogus Identity

This is the story of Tommy Taylor. His father is perhaps the most successful author on the planet. His father’s books, however, are about a boy wizard named after and based on his son, Tommy. We recognize the boy wizard troupe as a nod to Harry Potter. So, Tommy Taylor is world famous, but only as a character in his father’s books. The real Tommy Taylor would like a life and identity of his own.

The story kicks off with this identity crisis, and jumps back and forth between the real Tommy Taylor and the Tommy Taylor of his father’s books. His father’s fans are rabid about a long awaited final book. Tommy resents the books and his father. It doesn’t take long for reality and story to start intertwining, which isn’t that original of a concept, but that’s not all there is to it. It’s much deeper than that.

And The Twists Keep On Coming

A sketchy cultish cabal shows up, and Tommy goes on the run trying to figure out why they’re after him. A girl who is eerily similar to his fictional counterpart’s friend befriends Tommy himself and gives him advice, and the conspiracy continues to grow. What exactly did his father do? What was he up to? Speaking of his father, where is he?

Every volume of The Unwritten will keep you on your toes. The plot never gets predictable, partly because this isn’t just a story. It’s a meditation on the power of stories in our lives. The meta, postmodern beauty of it all will have you thinking and rethinking what it all means. It’s a smart, mysterious book.

On top of that, you have characters and subplots twisting and turning. The book pulls in classic stories and fables going back through all of literature—Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Everything is given a twist. Where do all these stories come from? How do they exist in our collective psyche, and what does it have to do with Tommy Taylor?

Tommy Taylor and the War of Words

The Unwritten is not just all words. The art is beautiful and compelling, and gives us different looks for different narrative elements. There’s written book pages, dialogues, TV broadcasts, and websites. There’s fairy tales and super heroes. It will immerse you in the story and many worlds of the stories.

Once I started The Unwritten, I didn’t want to put it down. It really captures the magic of stories. Each volume adds to the mystery, and you’re never sure where it will go. I read it over a year ago, and the journey is still fresh in mind. Get lost in the story while you’re riding out this quarantine thing. You can start here.

Amazon Music: Six Months of Disney+

Swamp Thing, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

wilsonknut.comI know I did this bass ackwards by reading Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan before reading the classic Alan Moore Saga. It just happened that way. Nothing I can do about it now, but find a copy of Moore’s take and read it. And that will happen, for sure.

I remember seeing the Swamp Thing movie as a kid. I literally don’t remember any details other than thinking it was weird, but I know my cousins and I watched it repeatedly on VHS. The fact that I can’t remember anything probably speaks to how good a movie it was. There was tough competition—E.T., Blade Runner, etc. Thankfully, Brian K. Vaughan’s Swamp Thing is better than the movie version.

Children of the Thing

Volume one focuses on Tefe (there’s an accent on the last ‘e’, but I’m struggling to make it work, so I’m leaving it off) the child of Swamp Thing and Abby Holland. The first chapter suckered me in. It’s dark and strange, and leaves you wanting more. The second chapter, which is really the backbone to the story arc , didn’t have the same effect. It took me a while to really understand where the story was headed. The third chapter delves into The Green, which is an environmentalist’s wet dream. It seems a little silly and Wizard of Oz-ish. Honestly, it was difficult to muddle through, but once the backstory is complete the volume takes off.

Other Points of View

Vaughan does something interesting in the fourth chapter, which really kicks off Tefe’s journey. It’s told from the point of view of another character—one who happens to be unreliable. The plot twists here drew me back into the book.

From this point on, Tefe’s journey is driving the story. It’s a story of self-discovery, which often make the best stories. Vaughan continues to use shifting points of view to great effect, giving insight into new characters who join Tefe. All the seeds he plants along the way bear fruit later in the volume (see what I did there?) I definitely wanted to continue to volume two to see where this trip is going.

Swamp Thing

There are a lot of artists listed in this volume. The artwork was okay. It wasn’t earth shaking, but it sufficed. My only gripe is with the depiction of the creatures in The Green. I just felt they were more childish than they should have been given the gravity of the rest of the volume. The real treasure artistically is Phil Hale’s collection cover artwork. It’s stunning.

I would say Swamp Thing, volume one by Brian K. Vaughan takes a few chapters to get going, but after the third chapter it really begins to take root and grow into something worth reading. See there. I did it again. If you’re a fan of Vaughan or Swamp Thing, you should check it out. You can get a copy of the book here.

On the Graphic Novel by Santiago Garcia on the graphic novelOn the Graphic Novel by Santiago Garcia  is a scholarly, in-depth look at the history of graphic novels.  It’s a hefty book, coming in at over 300 pages, but it’s so worth it. Garcia not only covers the history of sequential art, but the evolution of the form.  If you have more than a passing interest in comics, this is a great education.

There are a lot of great quotes from writers and artist in On the Graphic Novel. Perhaps the best place to start is with Garcia explaining what he intended with this book:
And this is the question that this book answers: not what comics are, not what the graphic novel is, but rather what the meaning of comics for us was, what it is now, what different functions comics have performed in our society and culture, and how the idea of the graphic novel is related to that.
Garcia starts with a discussion on the definition of graphic novel and comics.  Eddie Campbell says, “It’s undeniable that there is a new concept of what a comic is and what a comic can be and what it can do that has arrived in the past 30 years.”  This discussion takes us into the complex ambiguity of comics, their history, and their weird place in our culture.
Historically, Garcia begins with illustrations in the 18th and 19th centuries and walks us through to the 2000s.  He covers all the important artists, characters, and evolutions in format and style. On the Graphic Novel discusses the golden age of superhero comics, but more importantly studies the non-superhero comics of the time.  Romance, crime, humor, and horror comics lead the way for the modern graphic novel. All of the great contemporary books are discussed—Maus, Blankets, Black Hole, Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan, et al.
Garcia also discusses MAD Magazine, Raw, and Heavy Metal.  Perhaps my favorite section of the book dealt with the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s.  That era has always intrigued me.  On a side note, if you have never seen the documentary Crumb, you need to check it out.
On the Graphic Novel is worth the read for anyone interested in the workings of comics and the modern graphic novel.  It’s a little pricy, but I think the weighty content will give you your money’s worth.