One of the foundational missions here at the LCL is to break down artificial barriers to reading, and one way we will accomplish this goal is to suggest new and unexpectedly awesome things to put in front of your eyeballs (librarians call that readers advisory). We will review or suggest a comic that is friendly to readers, from well crafted graphics with enough detail to fill ten pages, to plot lines with nods to book-lovers. But that’s not all, for the same price (free), you also get a review of a novel that has something to do with comics or some characteristic that will inspire comic readers to brave long paragraphs and complex sentences. Both formats can offer intellectually stunning stories, mastery of form, and –my personal favorite– stories that taste like mind-numbing candy for your brain. From the War and Peace of comics to the 1950’s Superman of novels, let’s discover where fans of the novel and fans of the comic can get on the same page.
Let’s start someplace easy: the story line:
Unwritten Vol. 1 Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
Plot: Could the stories we read have a power that transcend our imagination? Tom Taylor is the son of a writer who used Tom as the basis of his young magician character, the lead in an enormously popular series that reminds the reader of a cross between C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter. But the genius writer has been missing for years, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Tom has been eking out a living appearing at conventions, but questions start flying about the true identity of his mother, and strange, violent events keep creeping closer to Tom. All Tom knows is his father taught him literary geography the way a normal person learns multiplication tables, was it more than the whimsy of a literati? Just where does Tom Taylor come from?
Art: In color, with an attractive art style, the visuals of this comic are straight forward and serve the purpose of providing the reader with information about the action in the story.
What you might not like about it: Violence in this title is on the graphic side. If you are sensitive, this is not the title to start with.
A main character that has moments that make him less than sympathetic.
Interludes telling the story of the novel written by Tom’s father may be disruptive to the story for some readers, but will not bother most.
Why it’s good for book-lovers: References to classic and popular literature abound, making the plot familiar territory for fiction fans. Panel progression is easy to follow, and the art is mildly attractive, in color and geared towards telling the story. Anyone drawn to mystery, suspense and fantasy stories will be easily drawn into the plot.
The Plot: Strange forces, known as demons possess humans. They take over just long enough to complete a set of tasks, each demon with its own routine performed regardless of the well being of their host. One such demon, The Little Angel, possesses little girls and takes them to hospitals where they kill the terminally ill with a kiss. There is no way to convince a demon to stop; the only option is getting out of the way or killing its innocent host. Our main character, Del, is a special case. Everyone thinks he’s just crazy, after all he’s been hearing voices, feeling something inside his head, struggling to get out. But Del knows differently. He was possessed as a child by the demon know as ‘the Hellion’ who he and his family had thought was long gone, but after a traumatic car accident the monster seems not gone, but trapped in his head struggling to get out.
Del crashes an academic conference on the study of the Demons. When the professor he went to find is killed the same night he refuses Del, our main character finds himself not only possessed, but a murder suspect. Del’s goal is to uncover the secrets that will exorcise the the monster in his head, but the more people he meets, the more he begins to suspect that nothing is quite as he, or anyone else had imagined.
The appeal: Del has many colorful companions on his quest, his computer-savvy brother, a friend from the mental ward, and a chain smoking exorcist/nun, who Del finds himself growing attracted to. Del proves to be a dynamic character who takes us along a series of twists, turns, and sudden revelations through a though provoking journey.
Why it’s good for comics fans: The author weaves in some comic book references and nods to science fiction novels. It also has a plot with the same mix of supernatural action, humor, romance and drama you often find in a comic book series. The language is accessible and not overly tied into the setting or minute details of the story.
If you try either of these titles out, write in and tell me what you think.