by Ray Fawkes
Ray Fawkes can be a challenging writer and artist. His One Soul is a difficult but rewarding read, while his new Image series, Intersect, lost me after two issues. I wasn't sure what to expect with The Spectral Engine, but I think it is easily my favourite work from him to date.
This book strings together a number of ghost stories from across Canada with the linking theme of the Spectral Engine, a ghost train that endless criss-crosses the country, picking up lost souls. Fawkes moves roughly from east to west in this book, but often doubles-back, both geographically and chronologically.
We work through a number of vignettes, encompassing a couple of disasters at sea (including during the War of 1812), stories of people becoming lost in the winter woods, a nun who falls through ice while trying to stop a murder, and a disastrous attempt at peace between two warring tribes. We also get a Wendigo story, which is always welcome.
I think my favourite vignette involves a despairing young woman during the short span of time that Toronto's subway system tried to run three separate lines across two sets of train tracks, an experiment which ultimately led to the closing of the lower Bay Station.
Fawkes's art is often very minimalist, and that works very well here, as we are given only the smallest amount of information that we need in order to understand the stories. I love the sense of both familiarity and strangeness that Fawkes evokes throughout this work, giving a different sense of the history of my country.