This graphic novel is a crossover between The Fables and The Unwritten, two long running Vertigo comics. I've read a number of the Fables stories, written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Mark Buckingham; in them the characters of fairy tales live real lives—and I suppose you can read a lot of the influence here of Neil Gaiman, both in American Gods but also in the Sandman series. The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, is about Tommy Taylor, a boy turned into a Harry Potter-type hero in a series of novels, who becomes his character, as it were. I hadn't read any of them before, but it's easy to see how close the connection is.
Now the Fables are fighting their last stand against The Dark Man, who wishes to wipe away their power, the power of story, and as they suffer defeat after defeat, Tommy Taylor appears from his world where story is real, to help.
The story appeared as five issues of The Unwritten, and Carey and Gross are the primary creators (the Fables creators are credited with only three pages each, though oddly not the same three pages; Buckingham is also credited as the 'continuity cop' for the storyline) but it seems to flow smoothly in the Fables universe. As in those stories, the real pleasures are in the more human sense of evil that lurks behind the friendly familiar faces: this of course is where the Fables' traction arose, the reality that our fairy tales are dark and fearsome at their core. Seeing the Big Bad Wolf as a human; Boy Blue as a Galahad hero; or Frau Totenkinder as the ambiguous force behind the fables resonates with deeper meanings.
And on the other side, the beautiful conceit of Snow White, having gone over to the Dark Man, and given her children by the Big Bad Wolf to him, gives the story a human depth appropriate for our times. It reminds us how those archetypical stories not only reflect our consciousness, but help form it.
Or it's just a lot of apocalyptic fun. Which it is.
The Unwritten Fables
by Carey, Willingham, Gross and Buckingham
DC Vertigo $14.99 ISBN 9781401246945