Following the huge critical success of Porcelain: Bone China and Briar, we take a look at Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose’s forgotten masterpiece, the dialogue free Butterfly Gate. But will this piece of ambitious story-telling being able to compete with the rich world building and stunning characterisation that we are used to from Read and Wildgoose?
Publisher: Improper Books
Writer: Benjamin Read
Artist: Chris Wildgoose
Price: $6.99 from Sequential
While the title Butterfly Gate may conjure images of whimsy and innocence, frolicking in the garden on a delightful summer’s afternoon with iced tea and a book, nothing could be further from the truth. This comic book is full of a quiet violence from the beginning. Revolving around a brother and sister, we do join them in that delightful summer’s afternoon, catching insects while mother watches on. Then an odd-looking specimen appears which the sister is intent on catching, and the siblings plunge off the beaten track into the wood and come across something curious indeed. The story rolls on, and we cannot help but go with it, drawn in by beautiful artwork and the silence of the protagonists.
This comic book does not have any dialogue. The only written words throughout are ‘The beginning’ and ‘Six months later’. That’s it. Nothing to distract the reader’s eye from the stunning artwork from Chris Wildgoose, no need to trip over dialogue in our heads trying to make sense of character motives or desires. No, nothing like this. It’s just you and the artwork, watching on as quite horrendous actions are undertaken. And then suddenly, it stops. The comic stops and you slowly come back to reality and the noise of the everyday. And it leaves you wanting more.
The world building in this comic book is quite spectacular. The siblings find themselves in an alien place, the dregs of an empire left over from a war of gods, indentured to a very large woman. The undercurrent of violence continues throughout, witnessing the mauling of the brother’s hand and the consequences thereof. And this is how some people live their day to day lives: with the ever constant threat of violence. It would be good to remember that. We also cannot help but admire the sheer weight of the ocean depths that are described in the latter part of the comic. With colossal sunken ruins, and an eerie atmosphere to boot, it’s all very different from that idyllic summer day all those months ago.
If it’s something different you’re looking for, Butterfly Gate is well worth your time and investment. Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose are trying something a little different, pushing the creative boundaries of the comic book, and are succeeding.