Book Review: Anthem: The Graphic Novel


Friday, March 15, 2019

There are few struggles in modern society more evident than the eternal battle of individualism versus collectivism and there are few more vocal about the struggle between freedom and tyranny than Ayn Rand. Anthem may be a slightly confusing entry for those unfamiliar with the dystopian worlds of Rand, but it is precisely what it is meant to be: shocking, oppressive, and against the very nature of man.

The protagonist of Rand’s classic is Equality 7-2521, a unit of a collectivist society utterly devoted to the worship of ‘we,’ who is castigated because he is different. Considered a burden and inherently evil due to his great stature and unbridled curiosity, Equality paints for us the picture of a ruined world devoted to the “greater good.”

Words have power, and so control of the great society extends even to language, where personal identifiers such as ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘my,’ have been forgotten. Instead each individual uses ‘we’ and ‘our’ as a reference to ‘self.’ Technology has regressed to the point where the invention of the candle is thought to be the greatest invention in the world and lightning is a source of magic. The authoritarian council that governs society chooses every individual’s aspect in life: when they must procreate and who with, their jobs, and even recreational activity.

The tools of the overlords of this society are assimilation, unquestioning obedience, and weaponized virtue, however nothing can stop Equality from struggling against all he knows and believes to be ‘true and good’ from extinguishing the light of freedom from within himself. His love of learning leads him to discover a place where he can experiment in secret, away from prying eyes, in hopes to break conformity and be elevated from a lowly street sweeper to a scholar.

Equality’s natural curiosity leads him to break the rules to feed his knowledge, stealing from the scholars house forbidden scrolls and tools that he uses to rediscover the secrets of the old world. Along the way, we get to see how his mindset transforms from ‘we’ to ‘me.’ He is helped in this task by his friend, International 4-8818, and his forbidden love, Liberty 5-3000. Equality begins to realize how little control he has over his own life.

Yet still infected by the mindset of ‘the greater good,’ Equality brings his new technology, ‘electrical light,’ to the council of scholars in hopes his mind will be recognized as a force ‘for good.’ Instead, he is demonized and forced to flee with his life. He escapes into the old world forests, where, using his skills learned from experimentation, he survives and is even reunited with his love, Liberty.

Together they journey until they discover a house of the old world where they settle down, free others who yearn for freedom and discover the philosophy of how they want to live: for themselves.

Anthem is a story that, along the way, allows the reader to root for and understand the desires of Equality 7-2521. His very being is in direct opposition with the society he lives in: wants versus needs, selfishness versus ‘necessary sacrifice.’ Through Equality we begin to understand Rand’s central contention:  freedom is being able to empower yourself by rejecting the sacrifice of others.

Paired with a fantastic retelling of a classic story is the artwork of Dan Parsons, formerly of Dark Horse Comics. The art is reflective of the story itself. Harsh, subdued colors reflect the oppressive society that engulfs the reader, while the purity of Liberty is shown through her flowing locks and white robes. As the story progresses, brighter tones begin to emerge, illustrating the growth of the flame of freedom within the characters. These nuances, combined with the classical style of comic book art reward the reader with extra details when they inevitably will read it again.

Rand’s Anthem is vividly retold by the arbiters of objectivism, the Atlas Society, enriched by the talents of Parsons, and revived by the storytelling of Jennifer Grossman. Any fan of Ego would find enjoyment in the graphic novel even if they’ve already experienced the original. New readers will discover something within themselves.

Either way give it a read, and find out for yourself! Purchase your own copy here. While you’re at it, check out The Atlas Society!

Patrick is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a veteran of the United States Coast Guard. When not enjoying time with his family, Pat can often be found on Twitter, rooting for the Chicago Cubs, or cooking.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Patrick Sullivan

University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Patrick is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a veteran of the United States Coast Guard. When not enjoying time with his family, Pat can often be found on Twitter, rooting for the Chicago Cubs, or cooking.

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