Benjamin Read and Christian Wildgoose, the team behind sublime Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, have taken elements from the classic fairytale of Briar Rose and given it a 21st century update adding in bits of the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones to create a thoroughly modern take on the classic imprisoned princess. But will this post-modern approach make for thorny read?
Publisher: Improper Books Writer: Benjamin Read Artist: Christian Wildgoose (Art), Jordan Boyd (Colours), Jim Campbell (Letters) Price:$6.99 from Sequential
It’s a cliche to state that every page of a comic is a work of art, but in the case of Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose’s modern fairytale, Briar, it has never been more appropriate. As Read and Wildgoose introduce the characters who are attempting to rescue the fair Princess Layka from behind a thorny forest each character is treated to a full page splash intro that looks more like an art nouveau painting than a comic book page.
As the champions perish we learn that Layka is kept behind the forest in a white tower to protect her from the curse of the evil Bas Celik and the princes sent to rescue her are part of his plot to get her to marry him. It’s a brilliant subversion of the classic fairytale idea of a damsel in distress in a tower as Read and Wildhoose take this a step further by making Layka into a pro-active defender of the tower, complete with Catniss Everdean style bow skills, rather than a powerless prisoner.
With the arrival of her champion Kaye ‘the Knight of Thorns’ we are treated to one final twist (which we’ll avoid spooling here) and a conclusion that takes the story off into a whole different direction as Kaye begins to tell Layka of adventures from beyond the briar and set up the following issues nicely.
Read’s script is packed full of smartly written dialogue and intelligent twists on familiar fairy story tropes, which keep the reader second-guessing where the story is heading at every turn, but without ever becoming self-indulgent or overly clever. Meanwhile Wildhoose’s art is truly exceptional, and reaffirms many people believe that he should be working for one of the big three very soon. With a truly stunning level of detail in every page Wildgoose’s immaculate pen and ink is backed up by some stunning colours from Jordan Boyd as well as some Richard Starkings-esque lettering from Jim Campbell which add a further level of polish and gloss to this already beautiful read.
As with their previous collaboration, Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, Read and Wildgoose have created an understated masterpiece with Briar that if it were published by a larger publisher like Image or Vertigo would rocket to the top of many of Best Of lists. For fans of Fables who are mourning the end of that series or Saga fans waiting for the next volume from Vaughan and Staples, then you should be sure to check this out and make sure you’re ahead of the pack on this one as it is something very special indeed!
“It’s Game of Thrones meets the Hunger Games meets The Brothers Grimm in this sublime modern fairytale that subverts the classic ideas of a princess in distress to create a beautifully-crafted tale that is instantly familiar but throughly different at the same time.”