Review: Portraits of Violence: An Illustrated History of Radical Critique

In a world where everybody gives you a “piece of their mind,” it is almost hard to believe there was a time when people were put to death for their views. Who knew such a thing as a “dissenting opinion” could get people in trouble. As history has proven to us, sometimes it can take ages before a general belief becomes widely accepted, as was shown in the very well-known death of Galileo with his conception of heliocentrism. As the religious zealots of the time vehemently opposed him he was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life by the Church of Rome.

The world has evolved more since then becoming more tolerant of different viewpoints but only to a certain level. Those people who belong to the outliers tend to be either shunned or celebrated. Those minds that changed the world rarely ever get the credit they deserve when they are alive. It is mostly when they transcended this world that the masses usually discover their brilliance. In the brilliantly told and gorgeously illustrated Portraits of Violence: An Illustrated History of Radical Critique the talented creative team demonstrates just who these great men were and how they shaped the global community we live in.

In the first chapter, Brad Evans‘ “Thinking About Violence,” the author extrapolates segments of history where violence had been justified for the “greater good” only resulting in unnecessary mass casualties. In “The Banality Of Evil,” Hannah Arendt exposes the long insidious legacy of Adolf Otto Eichmann, the architect of the “Final Solution” and the subject of the upcoming film, Operation Finale, tracing the cruelty humans have inflicted on each other over time and the moral consequences of such actions. In “Wretched Of The Earth,” Frantz Fanon espouses the evils of colonialism and the terrible cycle of oppression it imposes on those inhabitants of the colonized countries, as has been illustrated here and in the movie, Concerning Violence. In “Pedagogy Of The Oppressed,” Paulo Freire introduces the reader to the one of the founders of critical pedagogy as his seminal work, who openly criticized his home country’s rule and through his work encouraged free thinking and challenging of ideas, extending to today’s generations. In “Society Must Be Defended,” Michel Foucoult dissects concepts like power and colonialism through   archaeological approaches, and discovering the intersectionality between these concepts/devices. In “Orientalism,” Edward Said uncovers the methodology which promulgates distorted and usually gross misrepresentations of Asian peoples by the West and the illumination of European beauty standards which forms part of the basis for stereotypes and one of the first accurate description of the treacherous power of racism. In “Regarding the Power Of Others,” Susan Sonta, in her last book before she passed away, conveyed how governments utilize violence not only in political/military situations, but to convey a public image of strength and progress, when it slowly scrapes away one of the few emotions that highlight the human condition, empathy. In “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky demonstrates how the news is used to push ideas versus only reporting the facts. “Precarious Lives” recounts Judith Butler bravely going against tide shortly after the tragedies of 9/11, and questioned the “knee jerk” reaction to going to war shortly thereafter. In “Sovereign Power/Bare Life,” Giorgio Agamben examines and reveals “Life exposed to death, especially in the form of sovereign violence.”

Overall, a graphic novel which helps expose these “thinking heads” to the world, as they are not just “ethical pioneers” but “moral superheroes.”  The stories of each innovator is fluently told in a relatable and intelligent fashion. The art by creative team both humanizes these figures but paints them so beautifully. Altogether, an impressive book that in its short page run says more than most libraries on the world at large.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson and Brad Evans
Art: Carl Thompson, Robert Brown, Mike Medaglia, Michiru Morikawa, and Chris Mackenzie
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy