WARNING: While I have tried to be circumspect in this review, mild spoilers do feature!
Written by Benjamin Read, illustrated by Chris Wildgoose, coloured by André May, and lettered by Jim Campbell
Publisher: Improper Books
Out: Limited, indie release on 27th February, and will be available from Page 45, Travelling Man, Gosh! and Orbital Comics stores in the UK.
The Book: Porcelain A Gothic Fairy Tale is set within a world that’s a darkly magical echo of our own. It follows the story of a street urchin, known as Child, who leaves the cold streets of a snowy city behind when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s secret garden in a bid to steal whatever she can.
The Porcelain Maker discovers Child trespassing but, amused by her audacity, he offers her the chance to stay. He’s a lonely man, kept company only by his alchemically-powered automata, and he and Child form an unlikely friendship.
The Review: To say I've been wanting to read this graphic novel for months is an understatement. Ever since I first saw and blogged about this project, I've been eager to see the completed tale, and I'm pleased - no, delighted - the final production lives up to expectation.
While it's the truly stunning art of Chris Wildgoose that first draws you to the tale - very loosely based on Beauty and the Beast - some of the best comic art I've seen of late has to be matched by a strong story and, for me, Benjamin Read delivers. From the moment the gruff but ultimately kindly Porcelain Maker - a man troubled by numerous demons - rescues Child from his artificial guard dogs, Gog and Magog, through to a grim finale, Porcelain should capture even the hardest of hearts with its exquisite characterisation and carefully developed plot, laid out with the precision of a Victorian watchmaker but told with enormous emotion.
The scenes featuring these scary living mannequins are truly haunting, and lead to Child breaking the Maker's rules in such a way as to end in disaster.
With this release, Improper Books don't just deliver a beautiful, tragic, gothic fairy tale: they set high standards in terms of production and content, on a par with the best of French bande dessinees and the work of ground-breaking British artists such as Bryan Talbot. The quality of this title cannot, in my opinion, be understated, on so many levels.
Needless to say, I would urge you to track down a copy on release and I sincerely hope you enjoy the story as much as I have.
• A free digital promo of the first 12 pages of Porcelain is now available to view and download via: http://www.improperbooks.com/projects/porcelain