Sunday, January 3, 2016

The People Inside

by Ray Fawkes

Ray Fawkes is an interesting, very multi-faceted comics professional.  Over the last bunch of years, he's become a much more recognized name, writing for Batman Eternal, Justice League Dark, Constantine, and the excellent Gotham by Midnight.  He also co-wrote the terrible Wolverines though.

Outside of that, he's built a following for his children's comic Possessions, and has put together some very artsy, very strange books like Intersect, The Spectral Engine, and the incredible One Soul.

The People Inside is a stylistic follow-up to that endeavour.  Where that book focused on individual lives, from birth to death, this one looks at relationships.  Each double-page spread follows twenty-four people.  Most of these people are paired up with one another, creating at most a six-panel grid on the page, but as partners separate, their panel splits into two smaller ones.  When a character dies, their panel goes black and stays that way through the rest of the book.  The position of each character's panel never changes, although at one point, two people meet and begin a relationship together, and their panels merge.

Fawkes uses a very minimalist style in this book.  His simple pencils tell just enough information to get a sense of what's going on, and he blends dialogue with stream of consciousness inner monologue, so it's often impossible to tell if we are hearing a character's words or their thoughts.  It's very effective, although at times, I found it hard to keep track of who was who, and would sometimes have to flip back a few pages to remind myself which story was happening in which panel.

Fawkes includes a fair amount of sexual diversity in this book, featuring straight, gay, and bi couples.  We also see reflected in this book the full gamut of relationships, from one that is incredibly happy and rewarding, to one that is so abusive that one partner ends up in prison.  A couple of the characters never really find someone for themselves, although I kept expecting them to hook up.

While this book is very beautiful, it's also a little cynical.  More than the average number of people end up killing themselves here, and very few of these relationships end up being fruitful in the long term.

This is definitely an important book though, and works nicely as a companion to One Soul.  I'd like to see more like this from Fawkes in the future - not necessarily in this format, but with this level of inventiveness.

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