Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rated R Review: The Unwritten #6

The Unwritten #6: While The Unwritten is quickly becoming one of my favourite monthly comics, it does take an approach to English literature that I'm not sure I fully support -- particularly in its storytelling. It's too early to really comment on the series as a whole, but it's strongly pushing the idea of allusion as storytelling. Of taking existing works and basing a new story around them. It's not a new idea, but it's one that's really taken off in the past decade or so. In my creative writing class at grad school, the prof talked about how allusion creates resonance in the story and it does, but there's also an element of laziness in it. Frankenstein shows up at the end of this issue and that's fine, that's great, we all know who Frankenstein is, so Carey can play off our expectations... but it's also a case where he doesn't have to really work at it either. (He will, no doubt...) The character is there, we all know it, that's half the battle done for him. Then again, are modern superhero comics any different? Are they nothing more than fan fiction built upon allusion? How is this series any different other than referencing different characters and works? Take X-Men Legacy, a book that was based upon the idea of delving into the past and using those existing ideas to create stories that people will, supposedly, want to read... it all leads to a question: Can Mike Carey write an original work? Something that doesn't require an existing framework, existing characters, a whole literature canon... from my understanding, Lucifer is heavily indebted to Paradise Lost as well... The tougher question: is Carey alone in his reliance on what has come before? They say that there are no new ideas... but have we all taken that as law? Have we all given up and decided to play inside baseball for the rest of our lives? Remakes, relaunches, allusions, updates... Some of the greatest works have been created this way, but, goddamn, isn't it getting a little out of hand? I honestly liked The Unwritten more when Frankenstein was a fictional character that was referenced for thematic purposes in issue three. That was interesting. Are we reliving the past through entertainment? Or is it just part of the grand tradition of retelling stories, each new retelling adding its own spin? Am I expecting too much?

Fuck, I hate it when all I have are questions and few answers.