It’s been a bumper year for UK indie publisher Improper Books with titles like Briar and Night Post being met with critical praise. So we look back at their debut book, Benjamin Read and Christian Wildgoose’s Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale, to see if this delicate story is too fragile to stand up to the rigours of time?
Publisher: Improper Books
Writer: Benjamin Read
Artist: Chris Wildgoose (Illustrator), André May (Colours), Alexa Rosa (Flatter), Jim Campbell (Letterer)
Price: £12.99/$20.99 from Sequential
Porcelain tells the story of an urchin street child who, upon being ‘volunteered’ to break into and rob a mysterious house, encounters the house’s unusual occupier. It seems this man, whom the child comes to know as ‘uncle’, is an alchemist who creates unusual porcelain beings and has many of them around his home. However, despite all these beings in his company, Uncle misses real company and offers the child the offer to stay. Therefore, the child goes from the streets to a loving home, until her own loneliness leads her to discover a shocking consequence of Uncle’s trade.
Porcelain is a true work of art – both beautiful to look at and to read. Describing itself as a fairy tale is entirely accurate as Benjamin Read weaves an unbelievably quaint story which feels every inch as good as anything the Grimm brothers could produce. But what makes this story truly great is the characterisation of the two leads who are well-rounded with their own individual complexities showing through. Both Child and Uncle compliment each other incredibly well, such as in their first meeting where the scene between them feels both humorous, as well as adorable. This is a story which flows so well that it is shocking how quickly the book ends, it is that engrossing.
The slick story-telling is complimented perfectly by the gorgeous artwork of Chris Wildgoose which is perfectly fitting for the tone of the story. Every panel looks like a dream, with soft pencils, intricate inks and cool, almost chilled out, pastel colours. HIs character designs for the porcelain mix modern science fiction with classic steam punk aesthetic while the immaculate architecture helps install a gothic nature to the whole book, ensuring that it lives up to its ‘gothic fairytale monicker in every respect.