Saturday, 7 June 2014

Action Philosophers! Giant-Size Thing Volume 2 Review (Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey)


If you’re like me and have a passing interest in philosophy but don’t want to read actual philosophy texts and would prefer a brief comic about a philosopher’s life and their work, writer Fred Van Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey have created the series for you in Action Philosophers. 

This volume gives each philosopher - Marx, Machiavelli, Ben-Luria, Descartes, Sartre, Derrida, Wittgenstein, St Thomas Aquinas, and Kierkegaard - a short comic each. Yet somehow Van Lente is able to compress so much information into each chapter and in such a way that you understand the theories and the philosophers themselves once you finish each one, no matter how inscrutable the subject matter may seem at first. 

Both creators liven up the material by working in pop culture references and humour, and imaginatively present the philosophers in new roles. Like Marx and Derrida who adopt action movie characters from the ‘80s - Marx is Rambo and Derrida The Terminator (or The Deconstuctonator as he is here).

But the levity doesn’t get in the way of the information; instead Dunlavey’s artwork complements the script perfectly to help the reader understand it. Like in Derrida’s chapter where the comic itself becomes affected by Derrida’s deconstructionist philosophy to the point where it ceases being a comic, the authors go from being comic book characters to themselves in real life via real life photos and then the comic blinks out of reality! 

It’s also enjoyable finding out about the philosophers’ lives too, like Wittgenstein who came from one of Europe’s wealthiest families but forsook his massive inheritance to pursue his work, even becoming a bricklayer at one point. He went on to write the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the most influential philosophical works of the 20th century, submitting it as his doctoral thesis! 

If you’re a serious student of philosophy, you won’t get much out of Action Philosophers purely because these aren’t intended to be in-depth studies of philosophical theories. However if you’re a layperson and looking for bite-sized comics that are written and illustrated really well and tell you all you need to know about these philosophers and their work, look no further than this series.

Action Philosophers! Giant-Size Thing Volume 2

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