We love comics and want to share that love with you. The 9th Blog bloggers are from various corners around the world and our comic selection reflects that. Some of the comics we'll be sharing haven't been translated into English (yet), but that shouldn't stop you from checking them out.
Friday, October 25, 2013
One Soul by Ray Fawkes
Once in a while a graphic novel
comes along which challenges the conventions of the medium and makes you realize what this art form can be capable of. Ray Fawkes’ One Soul is such a book. It leaves you astonished, excited and exhausted
- all at the same time.
One Soul was published in 2011 already, before Canadian cartoonist Fawkes
started to write for DC, but the book could not be further from what he is
doing over there. It tells the stories of eighteen individuals, from their births to their
deaths. Unusual is not only that the characters stem from different eras in
human history (starting in the Stone Age through, amongst other periods,
Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, both World War I and II, and all the way to
the present), but especially the narrative structure of this graphic novel.
Fawkes uses the traditional set up of nine panels per page, but each panel is
assigned to a different character. Thus, in each two-page spread we get to know
a part in the story of one of the eighteen protagonists. This enables the
author/artist to interweave the individual stories and show similarities and
dissimilarities in the lives depicted. All this makes for an incredible and demanding read, forcing the reader to switch back and forth between pages,
trying to keep up with the individual stories and recurring motives.
Moments of life...
The scope of the book then is
grand, dealing with of course life and death, but also the things in-between:
childhood and coming-of-age, love, war and religion. Interesting is also
how the two lives that ‘frame’ the others (the first one: a man in the Stone
Age, the last one: a present-day girl) seem to be the least complex and most
straightforward ones – which does not mean that their respective lives are easy ones.
But One Soul is not just a mere description of these lives. It reveals
how we as human beings define ourselves and shape our lives. Our destiny, the
book seems to say, is created by ourselves but not without the influence of
others. This is of course a commonplace, but also at times a disheartening
insight as some of the protagonists can never fully realize themselves because
of their surroundings, try as they might. While the eighteen people are the
same in birth and the first few days of their lives, they quickly begin to distinguish
themselves from each other, based on their respective socio-cultural
environment as well as their own deeds. This is expressed in a series of paradoxes
towards the end, where the characters seem to speak with one voice, telling us
that we are “scattered in union”, “united in isolation”, “confused and
intermingled”. It comes as no surprise then, that at the end all the panels
begin to merge. Additionally, the connection between the individual lives is
created by the text, which is devoid of almost any punctuation or capitalization, making the thoughts and utterances seem like one long run-on
...and a moment of death.
The quest for finding meaning and
purpose in one’s life is then the central aspect that unites all the
characters. Those that realize their purpose have a moment of clarity in One Soul, symbolized by a small flame.
For some, this moment is reached in their lifetime, for others only at their
point of death. Others still never reach this moment at all. The search for
meaning and identity being such an important element here, it makes sense that religion
plays a central role in most of the characters’ lives as such systems of belief
have always been used by people to define their role in the world.
One Soul is not an easy read, but certainly a rewarding one. If you
like to challenge yourself once in a while, this should find a place on your
One Soul is
published by Oni Press/$24.99 US/ISBN 13: 978-1-934964-66-8