“One Line” written and illustrated by Ray Fawkes is a truly unique human experimental comic. This is the type you want to think about and hold in your hand, and try to read differently, going back and forth between the pages, testing out how far the comic medium can be stretched.
I hadn’t known what to expect. I knew it was going to be different, but that was it, and sadly I was only able to read a digital copy. I am afraid this is not the proper way to read this comic, because I wanted to trace the different stories and after reading them together, I wanted to read them separately. So if you are ready to plunge into that unique experience, I do recommend the paper version.
What is it about?
Well, that is a little hard to say. It feels a little like a poem about humanity, but that is because we are being weaved around dramatically different experiences across space. It made me think a little about automatic association, but it’s structured here, we follow a pattern, the same people over and over, exploring a same topic for a couple of pages over many windows. It’s a little like those documentaries asking people in different areas of the world what they think about a specific topic. But this is more abstract and cryptic. And at the same time there is a meaning to all of this. I did say it is hard to explain, this comic is an experience.
How are the illustrations?
Truthfully, they are a little amateurish. There is an obvious lack of polish in the simple black strokes. Some of the proportions are clumsy. The images are simple but efficient. There is an honesty and genuine aspect to them that adds to the atmosphere. Maybe because some of the subject portrayed are so raw and universal, so close to feelings, that something less polished makes sense. It’s a little like getting “the real story” for the “real people”.
What I liked – careful, there are spoilers in this following paragraph, it is just so hard to talk about this work and I feel I reveal a lot. If what I said intrigued you, then just go read the book.
This work has a powerful message that all people are the same in their emotions and experience. It doesn’t matter that we might transcribe and say things differently, that we look unlike the other, or share different stories, that we live in different areas of the world, because human lives are punctuated by the same essential truth and experiences. We are all born and grow and love and disasters happen to us and we eventually die… and it is a cycle and more. We all experience loss and pride and journeys whether interior or exterior, some truths talk to all of us and transcend culture. We are bigger than our individual lives, what happens to us, what we feel is experienced by vastly different people. Maybe there is a universal truth that can bring us together… and this message I absolutely loved. It talked to my anthropologist heart and I want to see it more in fiction. I hope that I manage to express it in my work, and I really enjoy any fiction story that makes it shine.
What I liked less
This comic did not end the way I thought it would. Maybe because I am a storyteller myself, I like things to have a reason, to be wrapped neatly the way real life can’t, so I got disappointed when it didn’t quite meet my expectations. This comic is more abstract. I thought in the end all the different family dynasties would be brought together – we would see why they were all presented before, we would have an explanation in the form of what all those vastly different people could become as a unit. This was not the choice of the artist, and I kind of missed that.
All in all this is a very unusual and interesting work that will appeal to people who enjoy poetry, who like to think outside the box, who like the humanities and other social sciences. This might not be for the usual comic readers, there is definitely a more intellectual aspect to this work, closer to literature, but if you like reading anything by Chris Ware, you should give this a go.
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