From Penguin Books, the publisher behind Che Guevara: A Manga Biography and The 14thDalai Lama: A Manga Biography comes a graphic novel adaptation of Ayn Rand’s classic, Anthem, from Charles Santino and Joe Stanton.
Anthem follows the story of Equality 7-2521, who is raised in a dark age future society in which everyone works for the “good of all mankind” after a fall of “modern age” man. Everything is shared and no individual is free to rise about the status in which they are given. Each person is given a job and from there they are split into various houses where all of the others of the same title live together as one.
Many of those who live alongside Equality 7-2521 as “street sweepers” are sent there as a form of punishment for failing to stick to the roles in which they are given. Equality 7-2521 is a lover of science and as such doesn’t seem to earn the respect of his fellow man, especially the scholars. To make matters worse he falls for a young woman, named Liberty 5-3000, who belongs to a different house.
One day while out sweeping Equality 7-2521 and another of his companions discover a strange man made tunnel entrance. Instead of reporting this to the council they choose to keep it a secret and Equality 7-2521 begins sneaking out at night to explore the tunnels, which are actually for the old subway. There he rediscovers electricity over the years as he begins to piece together broken materials he finds during his explorations.
Believing this to be a great discovery he decides to present the working light to the scholars in the hopes that he will be embraced as one of them and raised from his status of street sweeper. The plan backfires though and instead he finds himself accused of blasphemy and would have to face the world council to decide his punishment had he not made a run for it when the council told him they would destroy the light since it was created by him alone instead of with his fellow man.
Anthem offers an interesting take on the idea of freedom and the dangers of a lack of individuality among the people. After leaving his home Equality 7-2521 and his love interest find that there are many great things that can be learned and felt by a single person as opposed to doing everything as a group. Individuality is important and Anthem does a great job of getting that point across in a rather short story (only 132 pages).
The cover art, done by Joe Staton and Matt Webb is interesting and has a good yet simple look to it as Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 hold a light with their fellow man standing in the background. Though I must admit the coloring of Equality and Liberty’s clothes remind me of Link from the Legend of Zelda. The inside art is done in black and white and has some good detail on the character’s faces but lacks it in the background. There also doesn’t seem to be much of any shading and kind of look like sketches as opposed to completed work at times. The text is clear and easy to read and it isn’t an overwhelming graphic novel at 132 pages so it is something that can easily be read in one sitting or in a few short sessions.
Overall Anthem is a short and interesting read that Ayn Rand fans or those looking for a short story may want to pick up. It will also definitely peak your interest in reading the original book.
3.5 out of 5
Ayn Rand’s Anthem
Written by: Charles Santino (Ayn Rand originally)
Illustrations by: Joe Staton
Publisher: New American Library
Release Date: February 1st, 2011