Written by Benjamin Read
Art by Christian Wildgoose
Colours by André May
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Improper Books – Full Colour – £14.99
The Book: Porcelain: Ivory Tower sees another decade passing, and Lady becoming Mother. Hidden behind the high walls of her tower, cut-off from the world, she has sacrificed everything to keep her Children safe.
Set within a world that’s a magical echo of our own, Ivory Tower is the story of Mother, a revolutionary, who must overcome ruthless enemies and the dark secrets of her past to carve a new future for all her Children…
This story and this character means everything to Chris and me. We are both endlessly fascinated by her,” says Benjamin Read.
“In this chapter, Lady has become Mother, both to daughters and a nation she has helped create. We see the family she’s built around her, and the lengths she’ll go to protect them. It’s the next great trial, in her grand and terrible life, and in it we will see the scars that she leaves on the world, and those it leaves on her in turn. There’s a cost to everything, especially freedom, and it’s time for her to pay.”
Expanding on this, Chris Wildgoose said, “I’m hoping that for our readers, the world of Porcelain will be opened up even more for them. The whole scope and background is larger, the stakes are higher, but at its core it is still this intimate story of a woman using every power available to her to keep the peace, both on her side of the wall that she has raised and on the other.”
“Most victories come at a heavy price, but for our heroine, as ever, she is just as fierce and just as snappy as that Child we met in the first book; she always has another trick up her sleeve.”
The Review: There’s so much I want to say about Porcelain: Ivory Tower, the third instalment in Benjamin Read’s and Christian Wildgoose’s epic series. But I can’t… there’s so much going on here. So much! Moments, words and whole panels will open your eyes to guilty secrets, unspoken loves and duplicitous confidants. And, hmm, “Ivory Tower” – what could that mean?
Sometimes a book series affects you so emotionally during the reading. This is a book that moved me. I count Christian as a friend of mine and have never been so proud of a chum as I am now.
I first met Christian at the the KAPOW! Comic Convention in Upper Street, London during the summer of 2012. I was sitting with Dave Houghton and Marc Laming being bored by a certain self-obsessed artist and we were trying to extract ourselves from the conversation. I was saved by ‘The Goose’, who handed me the black and white ashcan preview of the first volume. I was struck with how fresh, original and gorgeous it was straightaway. He signed it, I read it, sensed there was something special going on here and stuck it in a bag and on a shelf.
Roll on October 2017 and Porcelain: Ivory Tower, the third volume in this series, has just landed. It is darker and denser than the previous volumes. If Volume One had a Grimm’s Fairy Tales vibe to it, this third volume has become more of a Russian epic. Its narrative reaches far and wide and the cast has grown, and grows during this volume, to a world full of war and politics and deep emotions. It has gone from a morality tale to a broader metaphor for the implications of power, family and violence – and playing with the lives (and deaths) of a range of people. Every single character is fully realised on the page. I feel like this is a world that I have known for decades.
“I have been a soldier in both my lives. I vowed to keep you safe, remember?”
Read and Wildgoose expand the story making logical use of the complications of the years and the situations that this city experiences. It is more than you expect. Much more than I expected. It is gloriously elaborate in story and also in the intricately captivating art on show. I can’t go too far in the description as it will expose spoilers, but… people who we think we know change. Their change is in many ways inevitable. Their change can be seen as unpreventable in the situations they face. This is a story that lays out in a fantastical setting the actual reality that a ruler or commander must face and decide on actions in the harsh cold moments of wartime. But, and here is a warning in advance, this comic will break your heart.
I wrote to Chris six times as I read. Six times, this book affected me on a deeply emotional level. Good god, this is good, I kept telling him. (He may well have now blocked me…)
This is a collaboration between writer and artist where you can’t see the join. The words the characters utter are part of the visual that you observe. The flow throughout the panels is as much the writing as the art and it is impossible to separate the two. I have yet to show page two of this volume to anyone without them saying “wow”. The changing of the seasons is once again used as a storytelling technique to pace out what happens and to give scenes resonance. This is the splendid culmination of a finely honed epic, you see everything on the page, every emotion and moment you need to see.
Don’t make a mistake in thinking that this is a prissy fantasy story. Porcelain: Ivory Tower has a sinister heart to its story that’s set within a war, a siege. The world is full of hard-hitting fighting. There are some brilliantly executed sudden shocks to the system. The soldiers and “warriors” have a classical design to them that only goes to emphasise the stabbing and punching and shooting stuff we watch.
Think Sharpe with tanks fighting androids in a Baltic castle and you might get somewhere near the vibe…
Hugely worthy of mentioning is the perfect pitch of the colouring by André May. He treats us to each chapter and season change with a whole new palette of shades of colours. His work adds so much to the richness of the reading experience.
Again, I really want to share with you the panels, scenes, words and sequences that mean’t so much to me as I read… but I can’t. This is such an experience to read that you really need to buy a copy and try it for yourselves. If you have never bought anything on my recommendation then this is the place to start. Trust me, this series will blow your mind. Intelligent, graceful, frightening, beautiful and heartbreaking.
Make sure you don’t read it in a Costa Coffee at Kings Cross… public sobbing can be really embarrassing!
• Porcelain: Ivory Tower was released at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and is currently exclusively available from Page 45 here. As part of the book you get an extensive section on character design by Christian along with some great pin-ups by Kate Brown and Jon Lam
• You can find André May at www.saerus-colouring.deviantart.com
Many thanks for reading.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.