The People Inside by Ray Fawkes
|The People Inside by Ray Fawkes|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The boldest, yet most subtle, black and white yet colourful love story – or stories.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 132||Date: August 2014|
|Publisher: Oni Press|
Love happens. There, that must be the shortest plot summary on this site, but the fact remains that you can say a lot more about what is on these pages, and you still have all you need to know in those two words. This book takes the profound – which, of course, love can be, and the mundane – ditto, and presents them to us happening in quiet, pacific black and white, and it does so in quiet usual, and in incredibly unusual, ways.
A couple is formed. They have babies, and stick together. Another is formed. They don't have babies, but stick together. A couple is invented almost by being in the Hollywood eye. They don't have babies, and don't stick together. Another couple don't have babies – they're both male – but they do have a bakery. Other couples have break-ups, other couples have tragedies, other couples split and meet the characters from other couples.
And we care wholeheartedly about all of them (well, perhaps not the Hollywood pair) because they're perfectly human, perfectly flawed, original and ordinary people, in clear and simple line drawings. We care wholeheartedly DESPITE, however – note that despite – the fact they're lumped on us all in one. Every double page spread features all the characters at the same time, and we have to piece what we know together as we absorb everything and everyone. On the next page, the same castlist, at different stages of progression along their stories. On the next, again the same – but things do change. Tragedies result in black panels. Break-ups are represented by a large panel with both people always present being turned into two smaller panels with one person alone. Someone from the left of the page finds someone new from the right, so a new arrangement is made in centre-stage, leaving the remaining two characters literally in the margins.
Thus we get the USP of this creator's works – the singular way he manages to tell multiple stories at the same time. There is one over-arching narrative – here, just the course of love in all its diversity – but there are also a dozen single tales, and we're presented with everything, in a delightfully never-talk-down-to-the-audience manner that will definitely stick in the throat of those who think comics are just comics. You cannot just touch on one character throughout their narrative, return to page one and do the same again – you have to sit and be mellow and wallow through everything.
But the script is strong enough to allow that – to convey all the personalities, all the differences, all the intricacies of the woven patterns that feature throughout the book. It's incredibly poetic. I think two people have speech balloons to say 'I love you', but everything else is in quiet, understated blank verse, and none of it is attributed. I think it's fair to say, however, that you can easily work out in each panel who is saying or thinking what (in the case of the battered bride, more so than the others). But the script has to do more than just touch on each panel as it comes – and there are a lot of panels, all uniquely designed, however similar you think a thousand images of people in and out of love might look. It quotes itself across the distance of many pages, it has to provide for a linear path through for each person from the preceding page, but it also has to reflect on what is said and what has happened in the panel before it, or just after. It's a multi-dimensional chess puzzle, and the creator has pulled it off with aplomb (for the second time, for I haven't mentioned his previous book to do all this with the same elan, One Soul).
So the word 'bang' becomes a double entendre and something else within seconds. So a death can be a shock, even if it looks with hindsight like the most natural thing anyone has ever drawn. So the creator can reset the whole thing with autumnal leaves (and autumn is very much the mood of the piece) and then present the whole cast's dwellings, and pick his stories up from there, purely because he can. He can do a hell of a lot – principally take such different people, give them such different life stories, and make them all cohere into one with surprising connections. You'll find yourself having your own surprising connection to this book.
Seeing as finding anything to compare this with is nigh-on impossible, I would have to return your attention to his last book in this style, One Soul.
You can read more book reviews or buy The People Inside by Ray Fawkes at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The People Inside by Ray Fawkes at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.