Porcelain: Bone China (Improper Books)

BoneChina_coverHot on the footsteps of their feisty fairytale fantasy Briar, Benjamin Read and Christian Wildgoose have returned to the book that made their name with the new volume of Porcelain: Bone China. After reading our retrospective review of Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, you should be ready to delve into this long awaited sequel, but will this follow up be another work of art or just a cheap imitation?

BoneChina_coverPublisher:  Improper Books
Writer: Benjamin Read
Artist: Chris Wildgoose (Artist), André May (Colours), Alexa Rosa (Flatter), Jim Campbell (Letterer)
Price: $9.99 from Sequential

Our rating: [star rating=”5″]

Ed’s note #1 – Porcelain: Bone China was released at Thought Bubble 2015 and is solicited for a release in February 2016. However, we couldn’t wait till then to tell you all about it!

In Porcelain: Bone China it’s been more than a decade since the events of Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale and our story sees Child, now a Lady, continue to live and work within the world that Uncle introduced her to. Having matched and improved upon her guardian’s original work, Lady finds herself butting heads with the despicable General, the army’s leader who wants Porcelain men for her war. Unfortunately, Lady does not want to sell Porcelain for such a role and so must navigate this new political arena while falling in love with a dashing army captain, all the while discovering something new about the porcelain.

Following up a book as rich and involved as Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, Ben Read, Chris Wildgoose and co have managed that rare thing of creating much more than just a worthy sequel, they have created a true work of art. The story once again takes the gothic fairytale elements from the first story, only this time making everything much deeper, grander and vastly more complicated – but without ever losing sight of the characters involved. The depth of the title serves to make Bone China even more compelling than before and, as a result, more engaging and heartbreaking as a result. Whether it is the scenes with Lady and the Captain, or the ‘reunion’ between Lady and Uncle, (which have echoes back to the first volume), Bone China features some truly emotive moments, so get your tissues at the ready.

It is these kind of heart-felt scenes, that once again highlight the strength of the Read’s characterisation. Building on the rock solid foundation of the first book they take the story in exciting and engaging directions as Lady’s personality is wonderfully authentic, feeling exactly as you would expect now she has grown up. But that’s not to say she is a simple copy of Child, she has the added depth that comes with age and feels much more nuanced than the bratty kid of A Gothic Fairytale, but is still just as feisty and likeable.

Of course, Porcelain is more than just a one woman book and the supporting characters, despite not being as fleshed out as Lady, are still more multi-layered and multi-faceted than many supporting casts, which helps imbue greater emotion throughout, and particularly on the heavy scenes. The General is a particularly nasty piece of work and by casting her as a woman gives the whole story a very interesting and diverse slant on the traditional hero/villain dynamic.

As with A Gothic Fairytale, the immersive script would be nothing without Christian Wildgoose’s exquisite art to bring it to life. Every panel is sublimely detailed, and rendered with the eye of a true craftsman. Balancing the subtleties of the more characterful moments, with some dark excesses, like the blood-soaked finale he shows his complete range, and scenes like Lady applying the runes to herself at the end are truly unforgettable.

The characters are beautifully designed with every facet brilliantly considered and realised. From the unique detail on the costumes, to the sleak look of the Porcelain, to the technically outstanding rendering of the city (and latterly a sailboat), the whole thing looks an feels like it could be released by a Big Three publisher and puts many high profile recent releases to shame.

Although Wildgoose will get much of the credit for the look and feel of Porcelain, props should also go to colourist Andre May who takes the cool colours from A Gothic Fairytale and adds warmer colours of a summer orchard for more exotic locales like the boat in the port or the nightlife of the city. And also letterer Jim Campbell who helps give the whole book a gothic fine art look that perfectly blends with the art and story.

More than just a clever pun, Bone China is an exquisite work of beauty from two expert craftsmen. Where A Gothic Fairytale felt like a childlike tale, Bone China is a much more mature story, that resonates the sense of life changing from child to adult and all the struggles that go along with this journey. Read and Wildgoose build upon the world they have created to produce a comic that is one of the most exciting, engaging, and emotional comics around. A true masterpiece.