When Building Stories landed in circulation, fresh from processing, it certainly got my attention—not least because its heft seemed more suitable for constructing a library than being shelved in one. With a snazzy cover and the name of comic artist Chris Ware to recommend the contents, I had to peek inside.
Opening the box, you’ll find everything from small books to printed sheets which unfold into poster-sized tales.
Building Stories follows our nameless heroine and a supporting cast of neighbors, family, and friends. Peeling through layers of time and architecture, readers explore their inner lives and interlocking relationships. The themes Ware addresses are universal: fulfillment, growth, communication, and mortality. While comics are often stereotyped as flashy, superheroic epics, Building Stories is thoroughly intimate in scale and depth.
The art is distinctively orderly and geometric, but the content is neither cold nor facile. In fact, Ware’s fastidious imagery lays out the characters’ messy, emotional lives with humane honesty. He uses the scale and flow of panels to almost musical effect, with the staccato notes of small, square panels which define a single moment sometimes swelling, crescendo-like, to fill the entire page.
The unique visual language of Building Stories—and, yes, that mammoth box—originally caught my eye. But I eagerly read each and every panel for the fascinating, uncomfortable realness of its resident characters.