Review: Red Rosa

One of the main, ongoing goals for Socialism is Good, Actually is to be an educational resource for teaching normal people who aren’t academics, who aren’t grad students, about socialist theory and history. I try to do this through the power of comics, but I’m hardly the first person to do this.

These comics are larger, denser, and full of more information that any single minicomic can convey. While I eventually intend to compile related minicomics into a format akin to a graphic novel I’m not there yet. But graphic novels about socialist history and theory already exist.  

I’m going to talk about Red Rosa by Kate Evans. 

Red Rosa is a graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist economist from the dawn of the twentieth century and one of the most important figures in orthodox Marxist theory.  

I’ve read a lot of socialist comics in the last few years. Some of them focus on theory. Some of them focus on history. Few manage to thread the needle and work both of them together. Red Rosa manages to tell an extremely human story, while stepping back and taking time to explain theoretical concepts like the labor theory of value. It’s the gold standard from which all other socialist comics have to be judged against.

The choice of Rosa Luxemburg is inspired. The intersections of oppression that she faced in her life illuminate issues we still struggle with a century later. 

The art style is also a little far afield from the style of most socialist comics. Red Rosa looks like something that would fit comfortably on the comics shelf of a hip indy book store. The lines and anatomy are loose, fluid and organic, and it presents a world with myriad shades of gray. The storytelling takes into account the flow of page design and line of action. When I compare that to other socialist comics I’ve read, for argument’s sake I’ll go with Spain Rodriguez’s Che. Che would fit comfortably on the shelf of a head shop in 1974 along side Zap and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. If you’re communicating with someone in the modern world you need to use art that speaks to the modern day. And which uses all the stylistic advancements of modern comics language.

Insofar as an age range I would suggest it for, there’s a fair amount of nudity, and a little sex and violence. None of it is gratuitous and all of it necessary to tell a very human story. I would happily give Red Rosa to any of my high school age nieces and nephews, perhaps with the caveat to not let their parents see the boobies.

Red Rosa is a truly great graphic novel. It gives me everything I want out of it. I would suggest it for anyone who isn’t super well versed in socialist history and theory, someone who is well versed in socialist history and theory who wants to get into comics, or as a gift for someone you want to guide along the path to the Spectre of Communism.

Buy from Verso (as of this writing it’s on sale for like another day).

Please don’t buy from Amazon… Jeff Bezos doesn’t need the money. ☭☭☭☭☭/☭☭☭☭☭

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