Had enough of flicking through graphic novels about millionaire Bruce Wayne beating up on poor people? Or Tony Stark prancing through life with unlimited funds to protect himself from the harsh economic realities of the world? Maybe it’s time to read a graphic guide about a superhero of the more intellectual kind; Karl Marx.
Except that most would probably now agree that Marx is not a superhero and Marxism has not helped matters much in any country during the 20th Century. Nevertheless, Rupert Woodfin's comic book is a fairly thorough introduction to one of the most influential thinkers of modern times. There’s very little action in the pictures and the graphics side of things feels a little superfluous, but this is an easily digestible overview of how Marxism began, developed, has been used and abused, and is still being transformed in political and philosophical theory.
Woodfin is clearly knowledgeable about the subject, but he comes across as someone who has fallen out of love with Marxism. He gets hung up on Marx’s ideas as scientific theory, and spends a disproportionate amount of time refuting this. However, his attacks on the failings of Marxist theory are usually reasonable and largely warrant the time Woodfin spends on them. It would be a much bigger, and arguably better book if Woodfin could also dedicate as many pages to explaining how Marx’s ideas may offer some insights into the roots of some of society’s current problems.
The major failing of this book is that Woodfin seems to reject the idea that social class is still an issue in modern society. It arguably depends on how left-wing you are already, but if you find yourself struggling to understand the current political state of affairs in the UK and the US, you might find some of Woodfin’s dismissals of Marx’s ideas a little frustrating. He brings up many valid criticisms, but also fails to convince exactly why and how Marx has been so influential.
As an introduction to Marxism, this guide is both fairly simple to comprehend, and then will be occasionally challenging to those with little pre-existing knowledge of philosophy and politics. While the graphics should help, they are really of quite little value except to split up chunks of writing. There’s only so many times that the same picture of Marx’s head with a speech bubble coming out of it can be used before it starts to become very repetitive.
MARXISM: A GRAPHIC GUIDE / AUTHOR: RUPERT WOODFIN, OSCAR ZARATE / PUBLISHER: ICON BOOKS LTD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW