Publisher: Improper Books
Writer: Benjamin Read
Artist: Chris Wildgoose
Colours: Derek Dow, Alxea Rosa (Flattening)
Release Date: 13th April, 2016
Jesus Christ on a bike, this book got dark quickly.
I should probably preface this review by saying that Butterfly Gate is an entirely silent book, with the exception of the words “6 months later”. This makes it considerably more interesting from a review standpoint. Anyway…
Straight off the bat, the first thing that grabs you is the art. The team have done amazing job of crafting this “story without words”, presenting it in such a way that it’s beautifully simple to follow. There’s actually no need for dialogue here, as everything is so well laid out for you. It’s almost like getting snapshots of someone’s crazy dreams, and reassembling them in your head to create the story, if that makes sense?
I’ve been a fan of Wildgoose’s work ever since I picked up Porcelain (go read, thank me later) and his impressive skill shines through here as well. In addition to his distinctive, almost fairytale-like style, there’s considerably more brutality added this time round, and he takes to it like a duck to water. His work is enhanced, in no small way, by the addition of Derek Dow on colouring duties. The images simply pop off the page, thanks to clever use of a muted colour palette for backgrounds, interspersed with bright neon flashes, bringing an almost sci-fi aesthetic to what is primarily a fantasy story. The underwater scenes and the book’s crescendo are particularly beautiful, offering a nice contrast to the darker palettes used in other parts of the book.
On to Mr. Benjamin Read; I’d be fascinated to sit this man down and have a chat with him, just to see what’s really going on in his head. The story he has managed to create here is one part sci-fi, one part fantasy, and all parts unrelenting. He’s very adept at lulling the reader into a false sense of security with subtle pacing and unassuming lead characters, only to flip things on their heads and have something brutal happen, and it’s a trait common to his work. This time around, there’s a definite tonal shift in the book following the “6 months after” moment, which not only comes out of the blue, but also seems to take the story in a direction that no-one could possibly have predicted.
In the last 18 months to 2 years, we’ve been seeing an increase in this type of book from the likes of Rick Remender and Scott Snyder to name a but few. High concept fantasy/sci-fi that has no problems connecting with older readers. It saddened me to notice that the book is only 50 odd pages long, and ends on such a massive cliffhanger, leaving me wanting more.
If I was to criticize anything, it’s that there’s an element of ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ at play h ere. The pace of the book picks up so dramatically in it’s second act that I think there’s more than a few missed opportunities. However, in fairness, there’s absolutely nothing stopping them being picked up at a later date.
Ultimately, it’s another cracker of a comic from Improper Books, and for the sheer strength of concept alone, it’s one that should certainly go straight to the top of your read pile.
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Butterfly Gate vol. 1 currently is available to preorder via all good comic stores using Diamond Code: FEB161597.
You can also find out more about the series – and check out a 12-page preview of the first volume – over at the Improper Books Website.