written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
The life of strangers, looking into the segmented world of different people from different walks of life experience said life; this is the core theme of The People Inside. This new terrifically poignant book from Ray Fawkes (One Soul, Possessions) explores the various lives of a wide swathe of different people, from a gay couple taking the first step towards matrimonial bliss to a broken marriage between a woman who just can’t walk away and the man who abuses her.
Fawkes turns convention on its ear, each page is laid out with square and rectangular panels of varying size, each panel tells a slice of an overarching story for the character(s) within. While some panels affect others and some stories have slight crossover in the vein of films like Love Actually, for the most part each panel is a continuation of one self-contained story. At first, reading is a bit jarring, there are so many different characters spread out across each page that I noticed a couple times this super busy cast of personalities was a bit hard to follow, but as this sometimes sweet/sometimes tragic ebb and flow of the lives of various characters unfolded, following the multiple storylines became gracefully clear in the best possible way. I felt like I was watching a movie, and while each panel could be read in a second or two, in my mind I felt like I was watching these scenes unfold into a spectacular drama of swirling human emotion.
Though the art style is fairly simplistic, the way Fawkes executed the story made this book truly remarkable. Utilizing a panel format with beautiful symmetry and a clear understanding of space gave this drama a character all its own. Even as characters die in their respective stories, subsequent pages denote the existence of that character with a simple black box. It’s a constant reminder of the story you had experienced several pages back, visual representation of what was once there.
This is a book you have to experience, I haven’t felt this moved by a comic in a very long time, and I don’t think I will again for a good while after this. The People Inside had multiple characters but none of them I felt were the main character of the story, life… the flow of time… the happiness and the sadness that come with simply living, that was the main character; and how wonderfully memorable that character was.