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One Soul Hardcover – July 20, 2011
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*Starred Review* Last year Chris Ware chronicled in comics form an entire life from birth to death (The Acme Novelty Library, v.20). Here, Fawkes performs that same feat 18 times over, simultaneously. The book's conceptual gambit comes from the design, which has each two-page spread laid out into an 18-panel grid. Each of these fixed panel locations follows, one frozen moment at a time, a distinct life from the darkness of the womb to the darkness of death. The first task a reader must perform is to pick up the hints in each story line that set the time and place: a prehistoric hunter, a priestess of Artemis, a Japanese silk-spinner, a Muslim warrior during the Crusades, a plague doctor, a patriot in the Revolutionary War, a Parisian diva, a WWI pilot, a junkie in punk-era Britain. Moreover, there is the choice to either read each story like an arrow shot through the book from front to back, or all together as a tableau on each spread. Either way, the book demands active participation to draw parallels and perpendiculars among the stories and construct meanings from the arrays of symbols and clipped fragments of narration. If it seems like an awful lot to ask of a reader, it s because Fawkes, busy wrestling with huge, meaning-of-life questions and large-scale themes of conflict, faith, and love, could sure use a hand. What it all fuses into is a remarkable and multilinear reading experience. Another new frontier explored in the comics medium. --Booklist *Starred Review*
It is difficult to grasp just how complicated and complex Fawkes' process was for this book, but it pays off on nearly every page. One Soul demands more from its readers than the usual genre fare that occupies the majority of the graphic marketplace. It is also a text, I believe, that will be better suited to print than digital formats because of the individualized and varied approaches readers can have with the novel. Fawkes, along with Oni Press, should be commended on both fronts for taking such a daring and experimental concept and giving it substance and a stage. Apart from its artistic and literary merits, One Soul also has importance for students of sequential art and the graphic medium itself because it would make for an excellent source of classroom discussion and debate regarding Fawkes' methodologies. --Graphic Novel Reporter
From the Back Cover
"An audacious love song to life, comics, and everything that connects everyone. ONE SOUL reminds me that there's only ever been one story. This is it." - Kieron Gillen, writer of Phonogram, Uncanny X-Men, Journey into Mystery, Generation Hope, and more.
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Top Customer Reviews
The preview gives you a really good idea of what to expect. This is a very meditative book that left me thinking of the characters fates long after reading it. The black and white art fits the mood nicely and has a grass-beneath-water flow to it. There were a few times I was a little confused as to what was going on either because of similar looking characters or vagueness (especially during the herder's tale). Also a few of the characters' lives begin to tread water and I found myself being less interested in them (though it adds a level of realism and contrast to the book as a whole). Early on all of the characters face a personal trying conflict. From the resolutions and/or ends of these trial each character experiences an epiphany and their individual paths grow from there. When one of the characters dies his panel goes black with words sometimes narrating the experiences of his death or of another character's death or of all their deaths. I was glad to see the panels put to use but sometimes wished for a bit more closure from some of the characters. Also the text of the dead gets slightly repetitive throughout.
I really enjoyed this book and found it a very rewarding read. It reads well to music, I think. I can see picking it back up quite often to absorb its moments, kinda like replaying certain scenes in a favorite movie or a really moving track on an album. I was a little wary of picking this one up but it's definitely a book that leaves you with a warm, reflective vibe.
But I did like it. Fawkes' layout is truly innovative. Each two-page spread has eighteen panels, and each panel features a different character. They range from a man in a primitive hunter-gatherer culture to a young woman growing up in 1980s Britain. Their stories start at conception and end at death, and cover their greatest joys and sorrows. The characters come from different time periods and cultures, but there are commonalities in their stories. The story-telling is simplistic, the text sparse, and we see the characters' live as a series of moments rather than a linear progression. The stories were engaging and the characters were sympathetic. Because there are so many different view-points, we see both sides of conflicts, that there aren't really good guys and bad guys. The content is perfect for Fawkes' experimental layout; it allows us to follow the lives of one character, yet see the patterns of human existence at the same time. You can read it one character at a time or one page at a time, but I'd suggest the former to start out with. I started with the latter, but this made it hard to follow the stories. I could see the parallels in the characters' lives much better when I was already familiar with their stories. Plus, reading it one character at a time means that you go through the pages over and over, so it's easy to pause and look at the big picture. "One Soul" obviously has an existential bent, but I didn't find it pretentious. The characters all have questions about the meaning of their lives, but Fawkes doesn't offer any answers. At first I found the tone kind of nihilistic (though this may have had more to do with my mood at the time than with anything inherent in the text), but it seemed more hopeful as I went on.
The art is simple but detailed, and strong for the most part. Fawkes includes symbols in the pictures, like the flames that sometimes appear over characters' heads. What does it mean? It's left to the reader to figure out, which I appreciate. There are some moments of unintentional humor, though. Fawkes' babies look like shrunken adults, and there was one moment where a woman is supposed to look like she's in pain but looks instead like she's trying to cough up a hairball. My only other problem with this graphic novel is that Indo-European cultures are slightly over-represented. There was only one African character and one East Asian character, but at least two White American characters (though I suppose the point was to show how a culture changes over time).
IN SHORT: "One Soul" has a unique layout and the perfect story to go with it. There are eighteen panels per two-pages, and each panel tells the story of a different character from a unique time-period and culture. The characters are sympathetic and their stories interesting. Even reading the stories one at a time allows you to see commonalities in their lives. The existential themes are thoughtful and not overbearing. The simple artwork was strong for the most part, though sometimes unintentionally humorous. I also thought African and Asian cultures were under-represented. But on the whole, this is a unique, interesting, and thought-provoking graphic novel. Strongly recommended, especially for those interested in the medium.