The Book Depository has played a cruel trick on me. After reading the first volume of The Unwritten (that would be Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity), I found myself obsessed. I immediately ordered more. When a package finally arrived (I, almost dead from impatience, had to send someone else to the post box) it contained volumes 3 through 5. Volume 2 has yet to arrive, and in my desperation to read on, I went to the local comic shop and bought Unwritten‘s stand-alone back story: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice (DC Comics, 2014). Then I read it.
This wasn’t a great idea.
I did like the artwork. As usual, Yuko Shimizu’s cover art was wonderful, and I was glad that the majority of the book is done in the sort of fuzzy, painting-like style that signals to the reader that we are inside Tommy Taylor’s story and not Tom’s (if you want to know more about the series and the story, read my review of volume one here). It is a style that I prefer to the crisp clean colors that usually appear in comics. Then there was the story…
The Ship that Sank Twice is meant to be all back story, and that means we alternate between seeing Tom’s Dad being a total asshole and reading a Tommy Taylor book (written by the asshole Dad). The Tommy Taylor book we read is meant to be obviously derivative of Harry Potter (and occasionally Narnia and a shit ton of other famous spec fic stories). This is the point, and yet… It isn’t funny, so it isn’t successful satire or parody, and it is far too derivative to be enjoyable in its own right. Woven beside the story of the real-life Tommy it can be magical and really adds something to the story. In this volume, it felt almost like filler.
But hey, the text tells us what this is about on page two:
“I’m not ruling out plagiarism at this stage. The trouble with these paradigms is that they’ve been plagiarized to death already. Lord of the Rings became a blueprint for an entire genre: the quest, the dark lord, the enchanted artifacts. Once Tolkien invaded the popular consciousness, those things became black holes—exerting such massive gravity fields that no fantasy writer could escape them.”
Makes sense, particularly in a series set on taking apart just about every literary Thing and examining it. But it didn’t work well with so little of the “real” world story alongside it because without the context, it becomes almost meaningless.
Will I enjoy it more once I’ve read the rest of the series? Perhaps, though it is meant to be a stand-alone. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Where I got it: T3
Where you can get it: The Book Depository (free shipping)