Let me first say that, while there is probably not a more appropriate crossover between existing properties that Vertigo could've done, there is also not a series I would want poking its head into The Unwritten any less than Fables. I've tried to read Willingham's work, and the only thing he ever had a hand in that I could actually finish more than a few issues of was Day of Vengeance, his magic-based DC superhero mini that led into the unbelievably disappointing Shadowpact.
I can't know how the breakdown for the overall story works, but when I went back to inspect who was responsible for what pages, it gave me a sense of relief to see one scene that felt particularly unlike anything Carey would write was in fact the only portion credited to Willingham. In it, a vengeful and bitter Snow White talks about how she used Bigby solely to sire her children, who she now uses to torment him as he is chained up in the castle of the Bogey Man (I don't know that I should call this a spoiler, but apologies if I spoiled something from the nearly 200 issues of Fables related comics out there).
I don't know the character of Snow White from Fables, but this feels about as close to a two-dimensional portrayal of a spiteful ex-stereotype as you can get. It felt misogynistic in a way I'd never read in Carey's works, and reading those three pages, feeling as though they were clearly a different voice telling the story, doesn't give me much hope if this crossover becomes more collaborative between the two writers.
But it looks as though, for now at least, the ball is mostly in Carey's hands, and aside from those three Willingham pages, I was pleasantly surprised by the start of the crossover. Gross and Buckingham have styles that complement each other very well, tied together by the wonderful colors of Chris Chuckry.
Chuckry does a great job of bringing about the warmth and life of the Fables as well as the emptiness and decay of their enemies through a deep earthly palette and one of blacks, blues, and whites, respectively. And when they clash, the tone of the pages changes, letting the darkness encroach upon the light. I think it's the sign of a pretty solid colorist that Tom Taylor bears just a slightly different look from the Fables; maybe I'm seeing what I want to see there, though it looks like he is colored in a way to make him seem slightly removed from the world of the Fables.
And while I don't want to spoil it, Carey and Willingham have given us a bit of a plot twist that has me very curious to to see where it leads. The last few pages leave quite a few different places that Carey can explore ideas he's been toying with for the last 50 issues, things like the universality of certain tales and just what exactly it means for something to be true.
In short, it looks like The Unwritten is continuing on its course, despite its crossover with the Fables universe. I'll be eager to see if we get more than just Tom in the crossover, though. Savoy, Pullman, and others would all make for excellent choices.
Also, despite having more than 50 issues preceding it, this actually makes for a surprisingly good jumping on point for The Unwritten, assuming you don't mind having wall of text that details the major plot points from the first issue up until now. Five paragraphs provide a nice recap of the events of Tom Taylor's life up until this point, which a more cynical critic might interpret as a way to make Fables readers want to go back and buy those Unwritten trade paperbacks while simultaneously not making them feel obligated to in order to understand the story.
I would sooner have crossed The Unwritten into Sandman territory than Fables, but at least for now it feels as though Mike Carey's playing around with someone else's toys and having fun doing it.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.