Written by Ray Fawkes,Art by Ray Fawkes
Published by Oni Press,2011
This graphic novel istouted as an attempt to push the boundaries of the medium. It tells the storiesof eighteen individual characters, each a panel at a time. That is, every pagehas nine panels and each panel tells the story of a different person. Each twopage spread shows eighteen panels, eighteen characters, at once, and every twopages advances their life stories one panel at a time. Got it?
The stories are linked byrecurrent themes, words, and phrases, and by visual images. As they begin, theyare all very similar. A black panel represents the time before theirconception, a white on black smear represents their fetal development, they arenewborns in their mother’s arms, the homes the live in, the worlds they livein, as so forth. Each lives in a different historical period, from Paleolithicto modern times. We see them grow old and die, and once again their panel isblack. They are also linked by the theme of random violence and death. By theidea that, if there is a god, he is indifferent to our sufferings. Some of thecharacters are angry and violent, but all have violence impact their lives insome way. If there is one soul, a life common to us all, then we are asuffering creature, lost in the dark.
My last comic review, twoweeks ago, was of Jonathan Case’s work and, like everyone, I marveled at howsomeone with so little experience could produce such a polished work. I couldn’thelp it. In his introduction Steve Lieber draws the reader’s attention to thefact and throughout the whole time you’re reading you can’t help by marvel athow polished the work is, incredibly so for someone’s first work. One Soul doesn’t have an introduction,but it does have a dedication: “To Dorian our beloved son: born and died March13, 2010: In Memoriam.” That’s only fourteen months before this book hit theshelves, so rationally it was already conceived of and well under way beforethe Fawkes family’s tragedy, but it’s impossible to read the book withoutwondering how it was influenced by the event. I read the book twice. After afew pages I stopped and read each character’s story one at a time, though Irandomly selected the order I read them. Then I went back and read frombeginning to end. Fawkes is a writer and his art can be generously described asindie influenced. His hands are so bad, they’re a distraction. I was neverdrawn into any of the stories, but I don’t think that was intended. It is onestory in eighteen lives. In the end I think it’s an interesting concept,structurally speaking, and worth a look because of that.
(If you are interested incomics that push the boundaries of form and convention, check out Rebecca Dart’s2004 Rabbithead.)
Originally Pubished at: David Bird