I am so unbelievably glad that this particular volume of this series exists. Like, it wasn’t necessary that Carey and Gross write it, and you don’t HAVE to read it if you’re making your way through the series, but oh man, you’re missing out if you don’t!
So this graphic novel–which, unlike the rest of The Unwritten, was released as one trade paperback, no individual issues–is two things.
First, it’s the story of how Wilson Taylor came to create both his son and his first novel, Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, which you’ll notice has the same title as this lovely piece of work I’m reviewing. Those two things, Tom/Tommy and the Tommy Taylor series, are inextricably related because of what Wilson Taylor did. The insight into the themes and actions of the main series is not only fun, but helpful in unraveling what’s already passed there, and what’s to come. This book isn’t in the main chronology of the series, presumably because it’s such a side trip, but if so, it’s one worth taking.
And second, it’s the actual full first story of Tommy Taylor, the one published in-universe in novel form. The first of fourteen books in the Tommy Taylor series. Except, we get it in graphic novel form, sandwiched in between flashbacks to Wilson Taylor’s life as he’s writing it, and dealing with new fatherhood.
What’s genius about this is that it works on multiple levels. I’m always saying how much I love stories within stories, and often find myself wishing that in-universe fiction was available for me to actually read (i.e. the Misery books in Misery, the Simon Snow books from Fangirl). So that we actually get to do that is super awesome (the Tommy Taylor excerpts from previous issues were always highlights for me). Also, reading the story, it becomes clear how and why Wilson Taylor designed the series very purposefully to tap into certain things in the reading public’s Jungian subconscious (i.e. Leviathan). The story is an extremely familiar one, very much on purpose, but originality was never the point. Events from past issues make a lot more sense in the light of this story. And finally, reading just this first story makes it clear how tightly our hero Tom is tied to his fictional counterpart, Tommy, which definitely has implications for the series going forward.
The art is gorgeous, as per the usual for this series, but they really stepped it up a notch for this one. The Tommy Taylor parts were much dreamier, and had a softer look to them, a little bit more of a duller color palette. The whole time I was reading, I was simultaneously happy to be reading, and wishing very hard that they would write the rest of the thirteen books as well, so I could read the whole story. It’s very sad that this will never happen. I’ll have to settle for the ending of the main series, and hope we also get clued in to Tommy’s fate as well.
I can’t believe I’m almost done with this series!