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One Soul h/c


One Soul h/c One Soul h/c One Soul h/c

One Soul h/c back

Ray Fawkes

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

"I want to know… why."

Brian Wood, Kieron Gillen, Jeff Lemire and J.H. Williams III have all lined up to lavish praise on this audacious enterprise with a narrative structure that's like nothing you've encountered before: the staccato impressions of eighteen individuals at the same point in their lives, separated by time and space across the globe but united in their attempts to understand their desires and duties, the external forces which shape their lives and the metaphysical implications of their very existence.

Each is allotted the same single panel on each double-page spread - a nine-panel grid on the left and another nine-panel grid on the right - so an additional eighteen immersions in those single panels will undoubtedly give you a more focussed read of those individuals' trajectory but, apart from the occasional flick back and forth, I've not even attempted that. That's not how it's meant to be read. Instead it becomes swiftly apparent by the similarity of their reactions - not necessarily at exactly the same point - that but for their physical surroundings they could well be as one and, when those physical boundaries are removed in timeless death, they do indeed become so.

Even those separate circumstances throw up shared experiences: few escape war or desire - even if it's the unholy desire of a molesting monk - and all apart from the nihilistic and indeed self-annihilating punkstress who rebels early on ("some people work") find themselves caught up in a "career" even if it's that of a slave. Mortality is omnipresent and, since it set itself up throughout the ages as both the arbiter of life and the answer to death, so is religion.

"I have two sticks on the wall to keep me to keep… to keep me… to keep me… angry"

The sticks form a wooden cross, so "safe" is the word you were expecting. Given the preceding deaths of thousands of plague victims in the healer's era in spite of his palliative administrations, that "safe" would have rung bitterly hollow but the punchline flips the tone from doubt to defiant disillusionment with a God so evidently errant however large He looms over the eighteen lives here. This disillusionment is far from unique and "I'll be goddamned!" is a phrase which recurs.

As time passes the cast's lights inevitably go off one by one, the first in flash of "white-hot light" which appears to startle the others in a semi-symmetrical double-page spread of fear and suffering zooming in on the children's eyes. Thereafter the panels of the deceased are panels rendered black, but don't think that's the end of their stories. White type flickers on and off sporadically as they begin to reflect on what went before. Some are self-recriminating, others self-centred but they all share a degree of bewilderment.

"I have to admit the possibility that I have failed in some way… that I am bad..."
"If I don't admit that possibility… then I am too small to see the meaning…"
"or there is no fucking meaning…. there is no great good thing watching over us with a kind smile and goodness… because if there was, why would this shit happen to me?"

Fawkes has settled on a visual style that is both simple enough to extract maximum empathy yet detailed enough to make the lives travelled distinct and of their time. The attention to historical detail is not something I'm qualified to judge, but it's telling that over a succession of engagements the warrior whose story unfolds in the bottom-left corner acquires new weapons and armour which eventually develops into that of a full-blown knight.

This really is remarkable. It's an almost overpowering succession of punches: jabs at the powers buffeting them about and stabs at understanding the eternal "why", all delivered in momentary snatches which eventually merge into a single inky lake of calm and quiet, and one final note of gratitude for the miracle of life

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