Filed under: Comic Reviews, Indie Comics | Tags: Andre May, Benjamin Read, Chris Wildgoose, Improper Books, Jim Campbell, Porcelain, Thought Bubble
Just a look at that front cover is enough to grab your attention with Porcelain – A Gothic Fairy Tale which marked the first graphic novel release from Improper Books but also the first for creative team Benjamin Read (writer) & Chris Wildgoose (artist).
A look at those first few pages builds an idea up about what the story will be as we see street orphan, Child, being “nominated” by the oldest member of the group of orphan’s to venture over the wall of a house belonging to a local wizard. It’s got that typical urban myth linked with the wizard but group pressure & a slap to the face is enough to convince Child that it’s her only option.
So across the wall she goes and what looked like a run-of-the-mill story quickly becomes more as she comes face to face with the owners two aggressive guard dogs. Thankfully they’re quickly followed by their master and calling them off he confronts this trespasser in an attempt to scare her off (and maybe add more to the myth about him) but Child thinks fast on her feet and bluffs her way through with a story so fake yet delivered with conviction that it HAS to be the truth.
That opening brings us headlong into a far grander story than it seemed at first as the Child & Uncle relationship grows in the most innocent way that it could. Uncle becomes her protector and adoptive father and an escape from life on the streets & a full belly are more than enough to convince Child it’s the blessing she’s been looking for. As that bond between them grows in days of food, fun & laughter the mystery behind Uncle gradually becomes clearer as his work with porcelain is revealed.
Uncle makes replica people & animals out of porcelain and somehow gives them life and autonomy but he keeps his cards close to his chest about the workings behind this but the growing relationship between the pair has him revealing more and more about his life’s work. This gives the whole book a feeling of wonder & awe as that Victorian era mixes with a futuristic idea of robots & AI that are all tied together by some unknown magic that Uncle has the key to. The “wizard” tag becomes all the more relevant as the book progresses and the steam punk feel to the visuals gives this another element in the mix.
Seasons pass, the highs & lows of that new bond between the pair plays out as writer Benjamin weaves all these different themes together with a real solid set of characters…..from the brief glimpse at the other street kids to the focus on Uncle & Child it’s got just the right momentum to make this a quality read from page to page. Surprises & happy times lead us to a bittersweet ending that punctuates what turns out to have been kaleidoscope of emotions that captures that fairy tale vibe promised in the title. It’s then brought to life by Chris’ artwork, Andre May’s colours & Jim Cambell’s lettering as the team combine to set the mood to match the range of emotions that pour out from the pages. The detail from Chris in particular is phenomenal across the whole book and act as the solid grounding that Andre’s colours emphasize & complete.
The whole book has that “wow” factor to it and I’m hoping that we’ll see more soon and it came as no surprise that this first volume had been recently translated into French because lets face it, most fairytales have an international appeal anyway. Deep, thoughtful characters combined with beautiful, glowing artwork that makes this a must read and a must get more title.
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