cover image One Soul

One Soul

Ray Fawkes. Oni (, $24.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-934964-66-8

An ambitious novelty that follows a single soul as it's reincarnated through human history, this graphic novel is intricately constructed. Each two-page spread is divided evenly into two three-by-three grids. Each of its 18 individual stories takes place in a single panel in that grid through the book's 88 spreads, so that to follow, say, the life of a silk heiress in Imperial China, the reader fastens the eye to a single spot in the book and then turns the pages quickly. A few of the 18 heroes, like a doctor in plague-ridden medieval Europe, make an impression, but the pixilated story mostly allows the characters' lives to register only in flashes. (Historically accurate, these lives are often nasty, brutish, and short.) But Fawkes creates black-and-white tableaux of action, grief, sex and death spanning centuries. Individual spreads allow 18 characters to speak in unison, as when we see every subject's eyes widen simultaneously. When a character dies, his panel goes black for the rest of the book, and we meet the soul itself in cryptic narration. If the words that flicker across those panels offer lightweight philosophizing, there's still unexpected resonance in turning the pages and seeing more and more of the book turning dark. (July)