featurebanner_peopleinside_reviewAMBER LOVE 09-MAY-2014 THE PEOPLE INSIDE by Ray Fawkes is published by juggernaut indie publisher Oni Press. The story simultaneously looks at several romantic relationships at once. Each panel pops over to the next couple. These include: a male gay couple, a lesbian couple, a couple that meets at a party, a couple breaking up, a couple facing domestic violence, a Dom/slave couple, an arranged marriage couple, and two people on a film set who aren’t really a couple at all. Finding any book that is not only LGBT-friendly but also shows two sides of BDSM subculture without harsh judgment is something I think comics readers are ready for, even if you’re a Vanilla like me.

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The people are never named. The spiderweb of plots thread the characters together and it’s exposed how some of them are in direct contact or within a degree of separation. As one of the lesbians, the singer, becomes more addicted to drugs, her partner is seen having a sexting relationship with the submissive woman from the bondage relationship. Other couples face particular traumas of death and the desire to have children. When one couple actually can have children, the happiness of their perfect life fades. It brings up important questions that real people face: will children keep us together, what if one of us gets sick, etc.? Other couples are intersected when one partner leaves for someone new and then faces unexpected consequences. On top of their problems, the characters are spotted with addictions and depression. There’s so much heartbreak as the happy points for some balance the sadness of others. The least harmful response after a breakup is a woman who is very depressed spending her time with her cat. Other reactions are more drastic.

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Fawkes uses solid black panels to pass time. In between significant breaks, he has pages of leaves blowing and falling. The words aren’t in any traditional sentence structure. The last word from one panel with one character picks up into a train of thought of the next one in a completely different setting. Fawkes repeats “sapphire,” “ruby” and “violet” a lot which is perhaps what he’s seen, felt or touched through his own romances. Smoke, flames, and heat play a strong role in evoking imagery contrasting moments about feeling cold and walking through snow. The fires are countered by numerous panels about water from bathwater to a lake to a plain cup of water cleansing someone through diet. That’s what Fawkes brings out in his poetry: it’s his way of harnessing elements recognized in Wicca, Paganism, Feng Shui and even Catholicism. Fire, whether actual flames or the heat of bullets, indicates major changes and consequences. Water is for serenity (real or false pretense) but also cleansing.

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As the story’s timeline goes from one Christmas to the next and the chapters are broken up by the images of leaves changing and descending, there’s an interesting switch. Closer to the end of the book, it’s not leaves. It’s snow drawn in droplets instead of beautiful geometric snowflakes and all the characters that have survived to this point are old. The solid panels of black grow more frequent as time is catching up the characters and their actions are so much slower with age.

To go over 100 pages without naming characters and still find such powerful emotions to make a reader care is truly a bulldozer full of brilliance by Fawkes.

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Do not read THE PEOPLE INSIDE when you’re depressed and lonely unless you are on the verge of tears and can appreciate the relief of crying once you get it out of your system for a little while.

THE PEOPLE INSIDE struck me in a way that makes me want to shove comics in everyone’s faces yelling, “SEE! THIS IS WHAT THEY CAN BE!”

Please pre-order this book! Independent OGNs and ongoing series are not necessarily going to be waiting for you on a shelf at your local comic shop. You might get lucky if you have shop that specializes in indies but chances are, you need to talk to your retailer about unique finds like this.

The People Inside – August 13 – Diamond Code: APR141286