#28 – Building Stories by Chris Ware

I’ve included Building Stories high up in the top 100 list because not only does it embody everything I think makes a graphic novel great – complex characters, beautiful artwork, deep themes, plenty of emotion – but it also takes things one step further and does something special. With this book, Ware has experimented with the graphic novel form and challenged how we define it. He had made it a truly interactive experience, something that even the best graphic novels lack.

The title ‘Building Stories’ is key to this – the reader has to actually build the story himself. The book comes in a cardboard box with different sizes and types of paper, such as newspapers and flip books, and each one has part of the story on it. The reader must shift and swap the different parts together in order to get the full story, and this makes you feel so much more involved in the whole experience.

The story itself is one of deep realism and emotion. It is about a three storey building in Chicago where the female protagonist lives, and Ware's plot follows her through various stages of her life. An important part of the story is the idea of loss, and Ware looks at all aspects of this – romantic loss, profession loss and physical loss (the protagonist lost her leg as a child).

The artwork on show is fantastic and the attention to detail on all the different parts of the novel are astonishing. The writing is human, genuine and full of characters that you will find things to both love and hate about. Building stories is another example of why Chris Ware is one of the greatest graphic novel creators working today, and if you want something different then this comic is not to be missed.

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