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Graphic Novel Round-Up: Unwritten, Chill, Wimbledon Green

UnwrittenThree graphic novels reviewed. The golden thread this time? Books. The power of books. The strange call to collecting books. And even the danger of hiring a "book" author to write a graphic novel...

Unwritten (Carey / Gross): The team from Lucifer team up in this new, slightly post-modern fantasy. Tom Taylor lives in the shadow of his missing father - but even more in the shadow of "Tommy Taylor", his father's Potter-esque fictional creation. 

As things start to get a bit weird (serial killers, death threats, magical tattoos...), Tom Taylor starts out on a quest to figure out what's really going on. He doesn't get too far in this first collection, but the set-up is very intriguing. 

A bit of Fables (what with the "power of stories" shtick) and a bit of The Magicians (with its combination of angst and fantasy). The lead characters are, so far, slightly forgettable - with the absent father being the most appealing of the lot. However, the story is great - and the occasional creative segue to "Tommy Taylor books" (or Rudyard Kipling's diary) is incredibly well done. Carey and Gross should settle in for a long and fascinating run. One to keep following. 

The Chill (Starr / Bertilorenzi): The Vertigo Crime series combines established authors ("proper books") with talented artists. This is the second one I've read (here's my review of Ian Rankin's attempt at Hellblazer), and I remain unconvinced. The core concept is good, but overlooks the simple truth that "books" and "comic books" aren't the same medium. 

In the case of The Chill, Starr has put together the rough outline for a fast-paced supernatural thriller and then quit. A pair of Irish serial killers (dad & daughter) hop around New York - sexing people and then killing them in some sort of uncomfortable, Druidic fashion. A burnt out cop and... another burnt out cop... are both on their trail. This would've been a fairly bog-standard airport thriller novel, but, in comic book form, doesn't even achieve that level of mediocrity. This is a collection of set-piece scenes for said novel - except it saves the author the effort of writing description by hiring an artist. As writing, it feels awkward. And as art, it isn't any good either - Bertilorenzi relies on bare boobs and messy corpses for titillation rather than actually trying to create atmosphere. 

Wimbledon Green (Seth): Subtitled "The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World", Wimbledon Green is a surreal study of the madness that overtakes collectors. The book is a collection of short, revealing interviews & anecdotes about the mysterious Wimbledon Green. Green is a fantastic figure, even to the fictional collectors, shopkeepers, admirers and rivals that make up the charming underworld of comic book collecting. No one knows who he really is - only that he's somehow better at collecting than they are. 

Wimbledon Green is cover-to-cover charm - combining nostalgia, humor and genuine warmth to create a wonderful, magical world of collecting that is (sadly) much more exciting than the reality. Without becoming too gushy, this is probably the finest book I've ever read on the strange, loving relationship between collections and collectors, and a genuinely brilliant exercise of the graphic novel form.