Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GN Review -- Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth / Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie di Donna

I looked at the premise of Logicomix with more than a little bit of apprehension, particularly when I finally figured out what that premise was.  Essentially, it's the story of Bertrand Russell's meticulously academic and logically reasoned justification of the pacifism for which he eventually became famous.   A little bland, I admit, but not an altogether unfit story for a comic book.

And if it had simply been presented as that, I might have less ambivalence toward the book.

Presented as a "story within a story within a story"--that's right, there are three different narrative frameworks going on in this story--Logicomix makes constant self-referential comics creation methods, even as it debates and deconstructs them within the frameworks of logic, philosophy and mathematics through its characters' and creators' observations.  At the outermost frame, we have the creators, Apostolos, Christos, Alecos, Annie, and Anne, a researcher, discussing the specifics of the comic: Russell's life, his work, and the people he encounters.  They often argue and debate one another during the "comic's" creation, often about what the significant morals, points, and themes of the story should be.  Bertrand Russell's lecture, the next story framework, directly informs the third, which is his narration of his lifelong quest to provide an indubitable foundation for mathematics and the people he encounters during his quest to do so.

At over 300 pages, this is certainly an ambitious story, and one that, I fear, takes too long to reach its conclusion, make its point, and wrap things up.  I'm not one to propose that action and adventure must be the only things we see in comics, but I do believe that if you're going to write a narrative of such significant length in a sequential art format, then you'd better have a way to hold your readers' interest and keep them wanting to know what happens next.  If you can't do that, you'll end up with a thick tome that's not good for much more than a paperweight.

Is that what Logicomix is?  Not to me, though I will qualify that I was significantly less interested in reading this than I typically am of most comics.  It was educational, which I think was its saving grace, but I'm not sure how it will hold up for most readers.  The art is fairly simple and not particularly stellar, though it works well enough for the premise of a comic essentially about the logical justification for pacifism in the face of war.

While it has more than a few of its own flaws, it's not a bad read.  It's also, by the same token, not a great read.  Not having been previously familiar with Russell's life or works, I found it at least educational and informative, although the constant interruptions to the multiple narratives were both off-putting.  The introductions of multiple philosophers, mathematicians, and logicians in Bertrand's life with whom I was not familiar was also a little taxing, though I will acknowledge that as more my problem than the narrative's, as the creators were at least thoughtful enough to include them and many concepts in Logicomix in a glossary at the end of the book.

With all that said, I won't claim this as particularly gripping or fun material.  It's interesting in places, but I'm not sure that will be enough to keep lovers of traditional comics reading.  Recommended, but with reservations.

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