Author Archives: Joe Bones

Review: The Two Lives of Penelope

The Two Lives of Penelope

One of the most fascinating aspects of human nature is our ability to adapt to our social surroundings. A person speaks differently when talking to their mom than they do when talking to a best friend or a lover. We can be efficient and organized in our professional lives while being lazy and unmotivated at home. There are always at least two sides to every person, but they rarely show both of them at once. Rarely reveal every aspect of themselves equally.

In The Two Lives of Penelope, author and artist Judith Vanistendael explores this duality. This original graphic novel from Europe Comics follows Penelope as she juggles her life as a wife and mother with her career as a doctor. Penelope has spent most of the last four years in Syria working with Doctors Without Borders. Now, she has returned home for three months and must ease back into her life with her family. A woman of two worlds, Penelope struggles to keep one separate from the other.

Much like the interplay of Penelope’s two lives, every aspect of this graphic novel is an interchange between two themes or styles. Vanistendael uses text sparingly, telling the story mainly through visuals. Yet, this doesn’t detract from the impact of the narrative. There’s a section toward the beginning of the book where the pages are split in half horizontally. Penelope’s experiences are shown in the bottom half and her daughter’s are shown in the top half. With Penelope in Syria and her daughter back in Belgium, the reader is shown two sets of events that are playing out simultaneously. This literary device creates a complex juxtaposition between disparate events.

There are a lot of unique aspects to Vanistendael’s artwork in The Two Lives of Penelope. The graphic novel itself is drawn and colored like a water-color painting. In the place of dialogue, color is used to convey the characters’ feeling. Through this technique, Vanistendael does a great job of showing her characters’ emotional journey rather than laying it out in narration or expository text. Some full-page illustrations look like they’ve come straight from a children’s book. This simplicity, however, works in the book’s favor. It allows the reader to focus on Vanistendael’s writing and to more closely follow Penelope’s emotional journey.

Another unique aspect has to do with the style of lettering. A cursive font is used for the dialogue. There are several panels where the speech bubbles are jumbled making it hard to follow the flow of conversation. Despite the graphic novel’s unique look, these disparities decrease the book’s readability to some extent. Longer text is used in several sections, including an inscription from Homer’s The Odyssey. These are presented in a handwritten font. The differing formats give the book an intimate feel, almost as if Vanistendael were telling this story directly to the reader. This feeling of a personal connection adds to the powerful nature of the narrative.

The Two Lives of Penelope features strong character development, interesting page layouts, and incredibly artistic illustrations. The story is simplistic in some respects and complex in others. The same can be said for the artwork. These dichotomies support the book’s overarching theme of duality. If you’re looking for a dramatic character study that also happens to be a graphic novel, this is the title for you.

Script and Art by Judith Vanistendael
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

Europe Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleEurope Comics

Review: SoulScape


As a reviewer and avid reader of comic books, I’m regularly inundated by titles by American publishers. I’ll throw in a manga every once in a while, but for the most part, I’m surrounded by Made-in-the-USA comic books. There are times though when I wonder what comics are like in other countries. Lucky for me, there’s Europe Comics. This conglomeration of thirteen publishers is dedicated to bringing the best European comic books and graphic novels to readers in America.

In one of their newest releases, Europe Comics is printing SoulScape in English for the first time. This collection of thirty-two short comics by Bahadir Baruter was originally published in 2008, under the title Ruhalti. Baruter is a Turkish caricaturist who pushes the limits of conventional sequential art. The publisher describes this graphic novel as an exploration of the depths of the psyche. In the case of this book, that psyche belongs to a caricaturist. Readers of SoulScape get a glimpse into how Baruter sees the world. I’m here to tell you, he sees the world much differently than you or me. This graphic novel’s interior cover page will instantly signal to a reader whether or not this book is for them.

Looking at Baruter’s artwork in SoulScape makes your brain hurt, but in the best way possible. It’s like trying to solve a word puzzle. You stare at it for a few seconds, trying to wrap your mind around what you’re seeing. Then, just a like finding the solution to the puzzle, your brain kicks into gear, the intricacy of Baruter’s art becomes clear, and a rewarding feeling sweeps through your body.

As distinctive as the art is, I was repeatedly struck by the same thought as I read through this graphic novel. Namely, caricature is not the best medium for graphic storytelling. The endearing part about a caricature is seeing the contrast between the original subject and the artistic exaggeration. In SoulScape readers don’t get to see the original subject, only the caricatures. Although each panel looks amazing, with each subsequent comic, the reader has to reorient themselves to what exactly they are seeing. This makes it very hard to follow whatever is happening in each of the comics in this graphic novel.

In addition, the short comics collected in SoulScape don’t seem to have much plot. They’re absurdist tales in which Baruter gets to show off his talents in drawing with pen and ink. There were many moments that I found humorous, but it was hard to say exactly why I found them funny. Something about the cartoons tickled my funny bone, but that something definitely wasn’t the writing. Between the lack of linear storytelling, the complexity of the artwork, and the high volume of detail in each panel, each of the thirty-two short stories in this graphic novel are very hard to follow. One silver lining, the pages look amazing, so readers have something special to look at as they try to figure out what they are seeing.

If I’m being honest, I’d struggle to point out Turkey on a map. Luckily, SoulScape puts a little slice of Turkey right into my hands. Baruter’s illustrations are some of the most unique I have ever seen. Every panel is so jam-packed with detail that this graphic novel begs to be read multiple times. With each reading, new details will be revealed that were previously missed. This graphic novel definitely isn’t for everyone. For those who are ready to challenge their eyes and brains, SoulScape is available for purchase from Europe Comics and elsewhere.

Script: Bahadir Baruter Art: Bahadir Baruter
Story: 3.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Read

Europe Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleEurope Comics

Early Review: The Sprite and the Gardener

The Sprite and the Gardener

I am an avid reader of all types of fiction. Regardless of genre or format, I love to discover the debut works of new writers. The cover art alone got me excited to read The Sprite and the Gardener when I was presented with the opportunity to review this book. Then I read the solicitation text and my excitement rose exponentially. In this original graphic novel, writers Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt’s debut their talents in a spectacular way. Published by Oni Press, The Sprite and the Gardener is set to release on May 5th.

The Sprite and the Gardener is a celebration of nature, told from the perspective of sprites. The sprites used to be the guardians of all plant life. Now, humans tend their own gardens. Wisteria, the graphic novel’s main character, must learn to work her magic right alongside humankind. After all, they all have the flowers’ best interests at heart.

I was glad to see a lot of visual storytelling as I read through The Sprite and the Gardener. There are times when whole pages fly by without a single word of dialogue. Yet, the reader can always tell exactly what’s happening. The story itself is a bit simplistic though. There’s never really any tension. There’s a little interpersonal conflict between the sprites but it doesn’t add much to the narrative. The plot just sort of unfolds, though luckily it does so at a very fast pace. Despite its simplicity, the graphic novel has a very cute and touching ending.

The Sprite and the Gardener is the type of book that could be enjoyed for its art alone. Abrego pulls double duty, writing the book alongside Whitt, while also illustrating and coloring the book. Abrego draws each panel in exquisite detail. She uses subtle colors, but the subdued shades still pop off the page and catch the reader’s eye. Abrego’s characters are so vibrant and full of life. They’re also incredibly adorable. The sprites are full of life and magic in equal measure. The font Crank! uses for the book’s narrative text has an olde-school, hand-written look. This style adds greatly to the magical aesthetic Abrego and Whitt have created.

At only ninety pages, The Sprite and the Gardener is a quick read. However, the art is so beautiful that once you finish it, you’ll want to immediately flip back through it, just to take in the artwork again. The story is a little on the simple side, but it’s never hard to follow the plot. The best way to describe this graphic novel would be, it’s like a picture book for adults (though kids would love it too). Put this title on your pull list so you can add it to your collection when it releases on May 5th.

Story: Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt Art: Rii Abrego Letterer: Crank!
Story: 5.0 Art: 10 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation Buy (for the artwork!)

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Pre-order: AmazonBookshopTFAW

Early Review: You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife

You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife

Whether we’re talking about books or graphic novels, I love short fiction. In my opinion, anyone with fingers, writing implements, and adequate motivation can write a novel. Short stories however, take a lot more skill to get right. This is especially true for those printed in graphic novels because the author has to consider both how the story will be told and how it will be drawn. Because of my love for short fiction and comic books, I’m always on the look out for new graphic anthologies. As such, I’m excited that Iron Circus Comics provided me with a copy of one of their upcoming anthologies, You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife.

You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife is due out on March 23rd. This anthology is a collection of stories that all center around death and what comes after. The twenty-four stories in this anthology tackle this theme in different ways. Some focus on the departed, some focus on those the departed has left behind, and others focus on what lies in store for the departed now that they’ve left the mortal coil. One thing they all have in common, each story looks at death as a natural part of life. True to the death positivity movement, these stories treat death as something to be honored rather than dreaded or mourned.

What Eats Us” by Letty Wilson gives readers a glimpse into a portion of the circle of life that is rarely discussed. The detritivores of the animal kingdom are given center stage. It was a very wise choice on the part of editors Andrea Purcell and Kel McDonald to start the anthology with this story. Wilson draws decomposition in a fun, yet informative way, throughout the entire story. I loved the illustration style Ahueonao uses in the story “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld”. This retelling of the Mesopotamian myth was a very entertaining read. It had a lot of humor and nods to the modern world, though I felt like it was a little too long.

James Maddox and Jeremy Lawson’sBeyond the Cosmos” is a very clever science-fiction tale. I love their interpretation of the grim reaper. He’s really cute and not what one usually expects out of a personification of death. The stunning art in “First Law” by M. Cat. White really blew me away. This story’s style is like a manga drawn as modern art. It’s one of the shorter stories in this anthology but leaves one of the largest impressions. White truly makes the most of every word that makes up the story. I really liked the plot of “Funeral in Foam” by Casey Gilly. It’s a fun little road trip story. Sort of a cross between National Lampoon’s Vacation and that scene in the Big Lebowski where they scatter Donny’s ashes. I wasn’t as impressed by Raina Telgemeir’s art, unfortunately. Some panels had great detail while others looked comparatively unrefined.

To quote what Caitlin Doughty says in the book’s forward, “You Died is a memento mori for the modern age.” These stories are a reminder that death comes for us all, but that doesn’t mean our end. Rather, it’s the start of the next part of our journey. I loved all the diversity featured in this anthology. There are stories that feature characters of many different cultures, racial-ethnic identities, and sexual orientations. As with any graphic anthology, the quality of the art varies, but I enjoyed seeing so many unique styles. For the most part, I’d say there are more stories with high quality art than there are with lower quality artwork. The sheer variety of different stories is impressive. There were some that are geared solely toward relaying information and I found those very boring. Others just didn’t make much sense. Luckily, there are just as many stories that are funny, inspiring, joyous, or a combination of all three. In the end, death comes for all of us. One way to prepare yourself for the inevitable…is to buy You Died when it releases on March 23rd.

Edited by: Andrea Purcell and Kel McDonald
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Buy

Iron Circus provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Pre-order: AmazonBookshop

Review: Nottingham #1

Nottingham #1

The story of Robin Hood has been told many times and in many ways. In my experience, there are three stand out versions and everyone has their favorite. There’s the animated Disney version with the anthropomorphic animals. There’s Prince of Thieves with Costner, Freeman, Slater, and Rickman. Or there’s Mel Brooks’ seminal Men in Tights. Regardless of which version you think is best (*fake cough* Costner), get ready to add a new favorite into the mix. This March, Mad Cave Studios plans to tell Robin Hood’s story in a new and unique way with Nottingham #1.

In Nottingham, series writer David Hazan gives readers a dark, grittier version of the characters with which we’re all familiar. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the first issue. Normally, I save my recommendation until the end of the review, but I just can’t wait. This is a title you’ll want to add to your pull list before it releases on March 3rd. One of Hazan’s many unique spins on the classic Robin Hood tale is that the story is told from the perspective of the Everard Blackthorrne, the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The entire first issue had the feel of a detective story and the Sheriff has all the qualities one would expect. He’s astute, stoic, and has a bit of an attitude. He also has a history of dealing with extremists, having fought in the crusades. All of Blackthorne’s skill and clout will be tested as he tries to track down a band of killers called the Merry Men, and their leader the mysterious Hood. The search for Hood and the Merry Men starts off rather slow but by the end of the issue, I was hooked by equal doses of action and intrigue.

Artist Shane Connery Volk’s illustrations truly transport the reader to twelfth-century England. He takes the time to draw every uneven brick in the walls of castles and buildings. There’s a scene set in the pouring rain where the raindrop hatch marks add a level of complexity to what’s drawn on the page. However, the characters’ faces are rather diminutive, especially compared to how richly drawn the comic’s setting is. Many of the faces look carelessly drawn, almost as if they were an afterthought. Colorist Luca Romano rectifies this to some extent by adding shading and shadow to the faces, but most of the time they still look like they were drawn by a child and not a professional comic book artist. These simplistic faces really threw off my reading, pulling my attention away from the scenes themselves.

This March, David Hazan begins a new chapter in the Robin Hood mythos with Nottingham #1. One filled with murder plots, zealous intrigue, and an element of mystery. Although the pacing of this first issue was a little slow, it picks up toward the end and it finishes with an exciting conclusion. The ending left me wanting to know more about this version of Robin Hood’s world. Volk’s artwork hits a lot of high points but the low points, namely the level of detail put into the characters’ faces, make it hard to stay completely engaged in the story. The world Volk draws feels real though, even when the character’s faces look off. Despite my criticisms, this is a series you’ll want to have on your radar, if not in your personal collection.

Story: David Hazan Art: Shane Connery Volk
Color: Luca Romano Letterer: Joamette Gil
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Mad Cave Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comixologyTFAW

Review: Breaklands Vol. 1


The first story arc of Breaklands is being collected in trade paperback for the first time. This genre-bending adventure series, written by Justin Jordan, was developed by Dark Horse Comics and digitally published as a ComiXology Original. The story is set in a dystopian future where people have developed psychic powers. These psychic abilities have become a part of nearly every aspect of life. The most powerful psychics, known as Shapers, are sought after by the new ruling class. This matters very little to the powerless Kasa Fain and her little brother Adam. They live a peaceful and quiet life. That all changes when Adam is kidnapped and Kasa must set off across the world to rescue him.

Jordan puts together a story that pairs lighthearted humor with hardcore action. The banter between Kasa and the warriors she recruits to help rescue Adam is fast paced and witty. Despite these high these high points, I didn’t find the plot to be all that original. Although there is a fair amount of dialogue, a lot of the storytelling is done through visuals alone. Jordan also come up with cool uses for the various psychic abilities. Pyrokinetic powered vehicles alone are a concept I’d love to see explored further in another series.

I never thought I’d write this, but I think Breaklands almost has too much action. The narrative gets lost in between all the high-octane action sequences. Character development falls by the wayside in favor of the non-stop action. In addition, there were several action scenes that either didn’t make a lot of sense or where it was hard to tell exactly what was going on. I also think there’s almost too many characters, introduced too quickly. Some of them don’t even end up mattering to the greater narrative. Little enough attention is given to developing the main characters to begin with, so the added side characters wind up just cluttering the plot.

In Breaklands, artist Tyasseta draws everything with a cool aesthetic. There are many beautiful full-page spreads in which Tyasetta gets to showcase the world he and Jordan have created. Tyasetta injects a mix of cultures into the vehicles, clothing, and the adornment of buildings. He also draws a variety of different action scenes, some more violent than others. The gorier fight scenes look comical since they’re drawn in a very animated style. I don’t mean for that sentence to come off as a negative. This juxtaposition between gore and cartoon styling actually contributes to the comic’s unique look.

When it comes to comic book storytelling, I often feel like writers come up with a cool concept but then struggle to tell a coherent story within the world they’ve created. In my opinion Breaklands suffers from the opposite problem. Jordan weaves together a strong, albeit familiar, narrative but the world he’s created doesn’t do much to support his story. The story has substance, but the concept is mostly flash. Luckily, Tyasetta uses his talents to full effect and illustrates that flash in a visually pleasing manner. All in all, this is a series that’s not going to appeal to everyone. If you enjoyed Justin Jordan’s previous works or are a fan of dystopian adventures, you’ll probably find something to like about this series. If those caveats don’t apply to you, maybe read the first issue before committing to the entire trade paperback.

Story: Justin Jordan Art: Tyasseta
Color: Sarah Stern Letterer: Rachel Deering
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Dark Horse and comiXology provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus ComicsTFAWBookshop

Review: Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974

Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974

Maybe you already knew this, but comic books aren’t just for fiction anymore. I stumbled upon this fact last year, thanks to the Book Riot’s annual Read Harder challenge. I’ve never been the biggest fan of non-fiction, but last year that changed. First, I went on a graphic memoir reading spree. Then with the passing of John Lewis, I binge-read the March trilogy before going on to read several other non-fiction graphic novels about black lives or with anti-racist themes. As such, 2020 was the year I discovered that great storytelling in comic books doesn’t have to rely on fictional characters. This personal trend is set to continue in 2021 with a new non-fiction graphic novel from Titan Comics, Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974.

Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974 tells the story of the historic fight between Ali and George Forman. Surprisingly, this isn’t a run-of-the-mill illustrated retelling of history. Instead, writer Jean-David Morvan takes a multi-media approach in his retelling of the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Morvan uses a combination of real-life photos and illustrations from artist Rafael Ortiz to form a creative and unique narrative of the historical boxing match. The graphic novel is further elevated by insight from Abbas, the photojournalist who captured the match. Abbas’ perspective casts the photos he took, the same ones used by Morvan in this book, in a whole new light.

My favorite part about Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974 is that it reads more like an action story than a biographical recounting. This makes the facts and events being relayed by Morvan even more compelling. It is also a wise touch on Morvan’s part to use Abbas’ insights and remembrances as the voice of the narrator. His words give even more authenticity to the narrative and in the early pages of the book, set the tone for the upcoming clash of boxing greats.

I found it interesting that Morvan also gives background on a variety of different topics, each adding its own context to the fight that, appropriately, makes up the graphic novel’s main event. Morvan covers a lot of ground, giving readers information on Don King, who promoted and organized the match, the government and culture of Zaire in the seventies, as well as background details about Ali, Abbas, and Foreman’s lives in the years leading up to the fight. All these additional details play out, interspersed with excerpts from the boxing match itself. As the match progresses in the background, Morvan sets the stage, scene, and stakes by delivering the facts in an engaging manner. Be sure to also check out all the extras at the back of the book. Morvan goes into detail about the beginnings of the project and the making of the graphic novel. He provides a lot of really cool sketches, done by various artists, that show photographers taking some of the world’s most famous photos

Ortiz’s art style is a bit all over the map. Sometimes it’s very realistic. There were pages where I had to do a double take between panels, as it took my brain a moment to ascertain which images were hand drawn and which were real life pictures. Ortiz also does a great job drawing the boxing scenes, capturing the stances and fluid movement of the fighters from one panel to the next. Both of those artistic elements really speak to the realistic level of detailed drawing Ortiz is capable. Yet, there were other times where the illustrations looked blurry, almost as if the ink had been smudged. These are usually drawn in close-up. Luckily, most of the times when the clarity dips, the narration text explains what the image is supposed to show.

Regardless of the unevenness of visual clarity, Ortiz draws all the panels in such a way that they feel authentic to the time period. Unfortunately, just like with the quality of the line work, Hiroyuki Ooshima’s colors are hit and miss as well. There are panels where the color adds just the right touch of detail. For example, the red shading on a pair of boxing gloves in an otherwise black and white or grayscale panel. Other times though, the colors muddle the visual clarity even further. An example is blue tint across a panel that makes the thick lines look even blurrier. I honestly think the entire book would have benefitted from being kept in black and white. Or even just grayscale. Aside from unifying the clarity of every panel, this would also make every illustrated image match the majority of the included real-life photos.

Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974 is no ordinary graphic novel. It’s a testament to the kind of innovative storytelling possible when a creative team thinks outside the box and mixes media. It is more than just the story of a boxing match. This graphic novel offers a snapshot of history and uses context to explore everything surrounding the fight between Ali and Forman. This graphic novel is perfect for fans of boxing, fans of history, fans of photojournalism, or those who prefer their fight scenes to be between well-developed (both physically and artistically) men in shorts instead of superpowered dudes in tights.

Story: Jean-David Morvan Art: Rafael Ortiz Color: Hiroyuki Ooshima
Story: 10 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus ComicsBookshop

Review: Girl Haven

Girl Haven

There’s a good chance you see a title called Girl Haven and assume you’re about to read a story about girl power. In a way, you’d be right, though Girl Haven doesn’t explore this concept in the way many readers would expect. To quote author Lilah Sturges, “Girl Haven is a story about gender. [It’s] mainly about one type of gender experience, [but] it’s central message is true for everyone: Your story is your own.” From the touching preface through an uplifting story, this graphic novel from Oni Press, is as timely as it is entertaining.

Girl Haven is a very cute story with light-hearted humor. The friendship and emotional bond between the characters is obvious and makes the reader love and root for them as the plot moves forward. The story follows four friends who are transported to the magical land of Koretris, a place for girls only, where no boys are allowed. This presents a problem for the graphic novel’s protagonist, Ash, because he’s a boy. Luckily, his friends are all female-identifying and along for the ride through this mystic realm. During their adventure, they see wondrous things, help Ash make a personal discovery, and come together to save Koretris.

The story starts off a little slow, but then picks up into a thrilling adventure story. Admittedly, if you’ve read a lot of fantasy, the plot and dialogue are very predictable. However, that doesn’t stop Girl Haven from being a really fun read. This graphic novel is a stellar example of representation in comic books. Within only a few panels of meeting Ash’s friends, we learn that they are all queer but none of them is ever defined by their sexuality. They all have distinct personalities that make them stand out from their counterparts, giving each character their own unique voice. This is the first YA graphic novel I’ve ever read that acknowledges that a person’s perception of their gender is fluid and can change as they learn more about themselves. This is an important message for all readers, and especially young adults.

“Girl Power” is on full display in one aspect of this graphic novel in the form of its all-female creative team. The three ladies work together seamlessly to create the wonderful world and characters of Girl Haven. Meaghan Carter’s artwork reminds me of Henry and June from Nickelodeon’s animated variety show KaBlam! It is the perfect style to capture Girl Haven’s magic and warmth. Even though her style is simple, Carter does a great job rendering the scale of the characters and their surroundings. Often, everyone in a comic book is drawn at more or less the same height. That’s not the case in this graphic novel. The accurate scale to which Carter draws helps make Koretris look real and helps transport the readers there, right alongside Ash and his friends.

Love is stronger than fear. That’s the central theme of Girl Haven and it’s a message from which we can all learn. I didn’t get this written in time to make the pre-order cut-off, but this is a graphic novel you’re going to want to check out when it releases on February 17th. It’s a book with something for almost everyone and is especially appropriate (and important) for young readers. This fantasy adventure story is well written if a bit derivative. The graphic novel is drawn in a fun and coherent style, and the characters are representative of people not featured often enough in comic books. Grab yourself a copy and get ready to journey through Koretris.

Story: Lilah Sturges Art: Meaghan Carter Letterer: Joamette Gil
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Early Review: One Soul Tenth Anniversary Edition

One Soul

Can you believe it’s been ten years since One Soul was originally published? Fans of the graphic novel or Ray Fawkes’ work probably said something along the lines of, “My gosh, it’s really been ten years?” Then there are people like me who completely missed it the first time around. Lucky for us, Oni Press is releasing a commemorative edition on February 24th. In One Soul, Fawkes uses an experimental narrative structure to explore the lives of eighteen individuals. These people are spread out across different periods of time but their stories play out simultaneously.

One Soul grabs the reader’s attention from the very first page. It begins with two pages of nine black panels. Next comes a series of black panels filled with white ink blots. It’s like a Rorschach test that is given context as soon as the narration begins. This narration is written like poetry. I’ve read several novels written in verse but this is the first graphic novel I’ve read that’s written in this style. After finishing this one, I can honestly say that more graphic novels should be written with poetry.

I love a good nine-panel grid page layout. Each of the characters is assigned the same single panel in the eighteen panels across each two-page spread. This is a very creative way to tell a story, though since I was reading a digital PDF, I found it a little difficult to keep track of all the various narratives. Fortunately, the unique setting and time period of each character helped clarify the story to a certain extent. The narration is laid out in the same fashion. As a result, it can be read in different orders, either as it’s laid out across the page or from one character’s panel to their next assigned panel.

Fawkes uses a minimalist illustration style but still manages to make the most out of each panel. He plays with space and perspective, yet despite the differing images in each panel, each individual page has a visual uniformity. That being said, I did notice that sometimes the characters look a little bit misshapen. Considering how obviously well plotted and thought out the rest of the book is, I have to assume this choice was intentional on Fawkes’ part. No two people look the same in real life and I assume Fawkes was trying to reflect this in his art. Although I can appreciate the artistic choice, I did sometimes find a character’s physical quirks to be visually off-putting.

Whether it’s tracking the narration or taking in the artwork, One Soul is a book that can be, and should be, read multiple times. Fawkes weaves together eighteen perspectives into a single beautiful narrative that explores what life is all about. No two lives are the same but from birth to death, we are all connected by similar experiences. We may be different people but universally, we all share one soul. Throughout the graphic novel Fawkes stretches his creative muscles through his beautiful poetry and by drawing an expansive catalog of objects, settings, and situations. It’s a challenging read but well worth the effort. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the One Soul Tenth Anniversary Edition when it releases on February, 23rd.

Story: Ray Fawkes Art: Ray Fawkes
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Pre-Order: AmazonZeus Comics

Review: The Forevers Vol. 1

The Forevers Vol. 1

To quote David Bowie: “Fame, it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line to bind your time, it drives you to crime.” Although that quote probably has the song now stuck in your head, it also nicely sums up the plot to The Forevers. The first volume of this series from Black Mask Studios has been collected into a trade paperback, available now wherever comic books are sold. The quest for fame and the drive to stay famous are the two main themes of this series by writer Curt Pires. In The Forevers, a group of friends take part in a magic ritual that imbues them with mystic power. Power they then use to achieve their dreams of fame and lead glamorous lives. Ten years later, when one of them dies, the rest realize that her share of the power has been split between the rest of the group. Now one of them is killing off the others in an attempt to claim all the power for themself. It’s up to the others to figure out who the killer is before he succeeds in picking them all off.

In my opinion, crime thrillers and fantasy elements don’t mix that well. Often, I feel like either the mystery itself would be no match for the magic at play; or that the mystery could take place anywhere, thus making the fantasy world irrelevant. Neither of these is the case for The Forevers. Writer Curt Pires strikes an encapsulating balance between the elements of mystery and fantasy. The world Pires has created is an accurate mirror of our world and the magic is believable. He grounds the story with emotions and desires to which all readers can relate. Then he uses those emotions and desires as the blocks on which he builds the mystery and suspense throughout the story.

Pires employs an interesting storytelling technique throughout the book. Panels on one half of the page are dedicated to one character’s perspective while the panels on the other half are from a different character’s point of view. This storytelling device allows Pires to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which keeps the story flowing at a fast pace. It also establishes connections and contrast between the various characters, making their development even more interesting.

The Forevers has some of the most realistic artwork I’ve seen in a long time. Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s illustrations look like he used real people as models. I wouldn’t be surprised if the main characters in this series are based on his real-life friends. Thanks to his art, reading the first volume of this series is almost like watching a television show. That’s how clear and real the characters look on the page. Pfeiffer’s color choices further add to the reality contained within his artwork. Using shades of color alone, he distinguishes background from foreground without having to use dark, bold outlines around the objects and characters he draws. This makes the focus of each panel abundantly clear and instantly draws the reader’s eye to the subject of that panel. Also, keep your eyes peeled for cameos by Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Plant. Their likenesses expertly captured by Pfeiffer’s pen.

To quote Bowie one last time, “Fame, what you get is no tomorrow.” The Forevers is a very well-crafted mystery with just the right mix of fantasy elements. The story remains exciting throughout while examining the implications behind the quest for fame and the ramifications of achieving that status. The artwork is phenomenal. There need to be more books on the shelf that are drawn like this one. I enjoy “house style” as much as the next fan, but there’s something truly engaging about the realistic nature of the art in this series. If you missed this five-issue series when it was released, now’s your chance to check out this fantastic story.

Story: Curt Pires Art: Eric Scott Pfeiffer Letterer: Colin Bell
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazon

« Older Entries Recent Entries »