One Soul by Ray Fawkes

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One Soul by Ray Fawkes
Buy One Soul from Amazon.co.uk

Buy One Soul from Amazon.com

Genre: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A richly complex and strongly formatted graphic novel with a compelling spiritual heart.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Oni Press
ISBN: 9781934964668

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When reading this it soon becomes very clear we're reading not one, but nineteen, stories. With each page divided into a regular 3x3 grid there are eighteen images on each double page spread, and every one shows an episode, or a beat, of a different character's life in turn, from being a babe-in-arms to death. However, the way they join up - everyone's figurative moment comes at once, at times the artist's heavy black ink makes all eighteen images coincide into one image - proves there is a separate, individual tale around and behind the others, one which will end with the most delightful moral - that the ability to be anything one imagines is in our DNA.

This is a brilliant graphic novel, most noted for its intelligence, successfully met ambtitions, scope and humanity. The characters range from an Athenian temple maid to a defender in the Crusades and beyond. A shepherd out of a fable meets a miner direct from There Will be Blood. Who knew that the tale of a modern day junkie could answer back to that of a prehistoric hunter-warrior so well?! All are woven into the wider picture, which uses a very poetic, slightly surreal stance, in combining each one. There can be times when it becomes a little too difficult to follow them all, and some of the stories do get lost in the general mix - for me it was the wronged highwayman and the wronged slave mostly. But beyond reading and exploring the over-arching tale we can then return to peruse eighteen little flipbooks, all of which are five minutes' duration, to get their tales alone.

But it is the way Fawkes has stuck to his measured, strict, rule, and provided us with such a spiritual book that strikes the reader. There are several obvious connections - black water, a thunderous encounter, but there is still so much that is understated for the reader to explore. His very clear, black-and-white-and-nothing-in-between, ligne claire, style contrasts with his prose being very low in punctuation, and in stacatto little bursts that can link up with anything said elsewhere on the spread, or just before or just beyond. So this is not the most easy to read graphic novel, but it is definitely one of the most genre-breaching, thought-provoking and memorable ones I've ever met.

This will forever stand as proof the graphic novel format is not restricted to superhero stories. Another collection of black and white short stories, however, that knows that heritage and plays with it completely successfully, is Demo: v. 1 by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan.

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