By Marina Lazëri
An age-old opposition. A tale of love and sex. Struggles of body and mind. Sounds like a standard coming of age story to me. Well, this graphic novel is of a rather odd makeup for a change: instead of Batman, Superman or X-men – what is it with men and heroisms? – It stars characters such as Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frebe.
Written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna, the story is based on the foundations of the philosophy of mathematics and traces Russell’s search for truth. It is set in a superhero comic paradigm: the heroes of the book fight enemies that take up the form of Intellectual Darkness, have perpetual inner conflicts regarding madness, and help humanity by overcoming intellectual challenges one step at a time. The narrative of the perpetual adventurer is intertwined with the philosophy of mathematics of early 20th century. Set in a few parallel plots, the book depicts the authors of the book themselves in their own path of discovery, Bertrand Russell giving a lecture in 1939, right after the invasion of Poland by Hitler and the narrative of Russell’s life before 1939 as reminisced by the latter in an attempt to recount his encounters with the elusive truth, infinity, and madness.
The gripping art of Papadatos and Di Donna compensates for a few indiscretions in the story line: in order to create a linear narrative – problematic in itself, but befitting of such a format – the authors play around with a few dates and even describe encounters that most likely took place in the intellectual realm rather than the physical one. Nevertheless, they do not stray from describing the main ideas involved in the storyline, quite accurately from a temporal perspective as well. The most captivating part of the book is, in graphic novel terms, the face-off between Russell and Wittgenstein, which did not escalate to a full blown debate but nonetheless made Russell realize the futility of his endeavors to discover truth with the set of logical parameters he was working with.
The greatest impression that this fascinating and attention gripping book seeks to leave is that life’s little joys make more of a man or woman than intellectual endeavors of any kind ever could.