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