After a decade in which – the odd exception such as 100 Bullets and Fables aside – they struggled to live up to the success of the likes of Sandman and Preacher (and let Hellblazer meander round the place a bit), Vertigo are quietly, without a huge amount of fanfare, starting to put out some interesting and potentially brilliant comics again. I didn’t really get my head around the first issue of Unwritten, but enough people are raving about it now that it looks like one worth checking out in trade, while Milligan is doing interesting things with Greek Street and we’re about to see the launch of a new Morrison series with Joe the Barbarian. And now they’ve gone and done the eminently sensible thing of letting brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon – two of the most exciting visual storytelling talents in the industry – do a fairly personal series of their own devising. Already, it’s turning into quite a charming and engaging little comic.
It’s also shown, with the closing pages of the first issue, a determination to subvert expectations – so there’s little sense in trying to assume just where it will go for the remaining eight issues. Nevertheless, having already shown us the final day of Bras’ life, it’s clear that a certain level of story-based suspense has been lifted, leaving the book free to establish itself as a more thematic examination of humanity. Deliberately jumping twelve years earlier to a twenty-one-year-old version of the character allows for strong contrast between the disillusioned lonely dreamer of issue #1, and the more hopeful yet still lonely dreamer of this one – and already, meeting Bras at two different points in his life is allowing for a fuller connection with an increasingly likeable, if slightly vague, personality. Meanwhile, the book also serves as a pleasing cultural education, enlightening English-speaking readers about a custom and festival that I’d imagine most will have been previously unaware of.
Indeed, it’s the Brazil-centric nature, along with the musings the first issue offered on use of talent and artistry, that makes this such a personal work for the brothers – and offers perhaps partial explanation for why their work on the series is so difficult to separate. Both in terms of the story and the art, they function more as a gestalt entity (nicely underpinning the recently-mooted thesis of the Gillen-McKelvie Paradigm; although it’s also worth pointing out how strong a contribution Dave Stewart – yes, him again – makes with his colouring), though if I had to hazard a guess I’d say the visuals veer ever so slightly more towards Fabio’s side of things. But being a true “team” effort between two such closely-linked individuals is part of the series’ appeal, and despite ending the first issue on something of an unexpected downer, it’s a very difficult comic to dislike – and well worth keeping an eye on, as it could yet develop into something really special.