Logicomix - an epic search for truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou with art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna

Logicomix_cover-214x300.jpg This 2009 graphic novel is a somewhat fictionalized account of Bertrand Russel's life (up to the start of the Second World War) and his work with Alfred Whitehead on Principa Mathematica (PM). PM was an incredible effort to establish a clear foundation for all mathematics, built on logic, a task later shown by impossible by Kurt Gödel.

This topic may sound like an odd, and perhaps ill-fitting choice for a graphics novel; it is nothing but. Russel is one of the most interesting philosophers of the 20th century, and the task he set for himself is one of the most ambitious ever, lending itself very well to dramatic interpretation (with tragic undertones). Moreover, the graphic novel is a very suitable medium, as it creates narrative flow out of visual compartments and text allowing the creators to weave abstract ideas and personal stories together.

The framework of the story is the creation of the comic book itself, with the authors and artists in modern day Athens discussing how they have chosen to use another framework - that of a lecture in September 1939, in which Russel speaks to a public divided on the question if the US should enter the war or not - as a method for allowing him to look back on his life up to that point. This recursive framework setting works very well, and allows the creators to discuss both Russel's childhood, his life after PM, and his influences of our thinking today.

The art and coloring is beautiful, and very detailed, and the writing is clear and interesting. The story is not completely historically accurate, which probably will bother some, but in my opinion this is secondary to the ideas and personalities it will introduce in its readers minds. That is the strength of this graphic novel. The bibliographies and literature list in the end are also nice touches, and will allow interested readers to find out more.

It was a long time since I bought new comic books, but picking up this one really reminded me what an excellent device they are for exploring stories and concepts that would render a text dense.