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S. Robert Katz
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
I could not be a bigger fan of The Unwritten. I've reviewed several volumes (though not all of them, since all my reviews are pretty much just imploring people to read the whole thing) and couldn't recommend it more. That is, until you get to this volume.
This story feels like a combination of opportunistic cross-promotion, perhaps some mutual respect and admiration between Mike Carey (writer of The Unwritten) and Bill Willingham (writer of Fables), a fun exercise in playing with someone else's toys, and probably least of all a genuine creative exercise in playing with the rules established in previous volumes. But for the most part, it's a complete diversion from the momentum The Unwritten has been establishing from the very beginning. The story was getting better and better, and with this crossover it comes to a screeching halt.
What we have here is an alternate version of the Fables universe. As someone who doesn't read Fables, I only know this from other reviews. Also as someone who doesn't read Fables, I didn't recognize many of the characters or understand their roles, personalities, etc. For the most part, it doesn't end up mattering very much in practice, but I'm sure that background information would be essential to appreciating anything that happens to these characters. So lots of bad stuff happens, but I can't bring myself to care. This probably won't be a problem if you've been keeping up with your Fables. I dropped Fables after two volumes, so I had a bit of a leg up on anyone who's never read it, but I still didn't recognize very many people or care when they died. I was thinking a page to explain who the characters were would have been helpful, but like I said, I can't even say it would matter.
The idea here is that in this alternate Fables universe that diverged from the regular Fables continuity (apparently some characters are dead who should be alive, alive who should be dead, good who should be evil, evil who should be good, but of course all of this is lost on me), the characters are pushed to the brink in an ongoing war and are desperate for the most powerful wizard they can conjure. Of course they conjure Tom Taylor (eventually coaxing Tommy Taylor out of him) and he helps them fight Mister Dark.
There are just a few little nuggets of essential Unwritten material here, but only a few. For one thing, Tom gets the chance to encounter the witch from Hansel and Gretel (I had no idea who she was until the late chapters) and she helps him make sense of his dual nature. This is certainly a watershed moment in the series, but I can't say it necessitated a five-issue diversion from the main plot; any magical character in any context could have served the same purpose. There's also a very nice ending sequence that mirrors the start of the whole series and acts as a nice cap to the first volume and sets up the final chapter. But again, it's a brief sequence that could really have come at the end of a more pertinent story. There's a bit of symmetry between the villain, Mister Dark, and Taylor's nemesis, Count Ambrosio, which is worthwhile.
There's also a cool idea here (SPOILERS AHEAD!) involving the wicked witch, who is apparently reformed, "treating" herself by eating a bunch of children in order to gather as much power as possible to fight Mister Dark. I really loved that part. She wasn't very interesting for the first four chapters, but this turn instantly made her one of the coolest characters in the whole series.
But overall, it feels like a rather self-indulgent exercise in killing time and hopefully getting some cross-promotion in the process. It does play with the concepts and rules established in the series so far, so it's not a total waste, but it's pretty much lost on someone who doesn't read Fables and would have liked to see the Unwritten continue to gather momentum on its way to the grand finale, rather than a diversion. When it comes to a series like The Unwritten, an ongoing with the broad strokes clearly planned out from the start, it can't be easy to strike a balance in exploring all the vast possibilities in the story's themes (which, to be fair, are pretty much infinite) without dragging on forever. It's hard to shake the feeling that it's no accident this volume is the end of the first run and leads directly into the finale. Perhaps during the course of writing it, Carey realized this was a little too close for comfort to a fan fiction exercise in killing time. I mean, five issues of an alternate reality that doesn't really advance the plot? It's a bit much.
Overall, it's not a bad comic, but I'm not so sure it should be a part of the Unwritten ongoing (obviously there will be a bit of a gap between volumes 8 and 10 if you skip this outright); a double-sized 50th issue containing just a few important story beats would have served the same purpose without feeling like a diversion. If Carey and Willingham were dead set on telling this story, it really would have worked better as a self-contained crossover between the titles. But hey, what's done is done. If you're tight on cash, read a synopsis and save your money for the other 11 volumes of the series (including the OGN, which is far more essential than this). It's probably a 2.5 star book, rounded down based on the impossibly high bar set by The Unwritten.