Improper Books [available online]
Colour / £14.99
Review by Tom Mortimer
Porcelain: Bone China, by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose, is the second book in the critically-acclaimed Porcelain series. Continuing many years after the first book ended, Bone China follows the story of Lady as she attempts to deal with romantic advances as well as the increasingly threatening presence of a General who seeks to use her magical Porcelain figure crafting abilities to create an inhuman army. If this sounds fantastical, that’s because it is.
Porcelain was released by Improper Books, a publisher with the mission statement of setting out to embrace the realm of the fairy tale and the other-worldly. I found Porcelain: Bone China works in this genre in such a way as to feel familiar, but unlike a straight ‘good versus evil’ narrative, the story is more nuanced and expansive. I think this approach may be wherein the success of the book lies; it doesn’t necessarily seem to aim to be different in an edgy manner, it just sets out to be the best it can be and makes every effort accordingly.
Read’s writing allows for dramatic twists, while remaining natural and fluid. He has evidently invested time in establishing the relationship between characters and, coupled with the previous book, is steadily building a momentum to the narrative. You can trace motives back, and see how one thing has led to another.
On the visual side of things, Wildgoose offers a strong investment in detail and design. He is undoubtedly an excellent illustrator, and a sturdy one at that. His approach adopts the general look and feel of professional western contemporary comics, while utilising that position to add a leyer of bold credibility to the overall look and feel of the book.
As an added treat, the book also includes Wildgoose’s preparation work, including vast, mapped areas of the world. These notes make for a genuinely insightful read, where sometimes such extras can feel a little like a bit of last-minute padding.
The colours by André May play out in a generally subdued manner, giving a wintry feel to the book (often relying on a soft purple and blue palette for exteriors, which sits nicely against the earthy oranges he chooses for interiors). Colour choices can sometimes be a downfall of small press, but the deployment here is excellent and adds, again, another layer to the sense of professionalism. Credit also to flatter Alexa Rosa.
The letterer Jim Campbell delivers a professionally slick reading. I generally find that lettering is easily overlooked because the very fact that it doesn’t noticeably stand out is almost the aim and testament to it’s success. You rarely notice unless there is an obvious error, and this book’s visual delivery has no suggestible visual denting – it’s beautifully smooth.
If I had to draw out a criticism of the Porcelain: Bone China, it would actually touch on what I’ve also identified as one of its greatest strengths; namely, the book draws from a place of familiarity, and its layers of silk like delivery can as times gloss the edges. It’s personal taste, of course, but I do love a bit of grit.
However, I can’t deny the weight of this book’s content, and its rapturous response elsewhere is certainly justified. I have no doubt that there are those who are deeply passionate about these kinds of fantasy realm, and without question has standards among the highest I’ve seen for a small press offering.