Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project
2024 is often-controversial political cartoonist Ted Rall’s take on George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984. Rall’s version, of course, is updated to fit its own time, so the danger is morphed to focus more on postmodern relativism, Gen X cynicism, deregulation, and securitization.
While it is interesting to see how close Rall manages to stick to the source material’s narrative and thematic structures, there is not all that much to say about the book. It is pretty heavy-handed, lacking much of the finer touches that his other work has. Of course, Rall rarely shies away from bluntness, but in this case the script is just too heavy-handed to be enjoyable. If this heavy-handedness had been limited to the political points Rall wants to make, it would have been one thing, but 2024 goes beyond that. It takes its readers by the hand and pulls them to whatever it is Rall wants to say and then throws that thing in their face.
This leads to another shortcoming of the graphic novel. 1984 is a slow book. Orwell takes his time to build a plausible and disturbing world. Rall rushes through the narrative, pointing to one thing and then another, hammering at thing after thing before moving on to the next. The result is an underdeveloped world, implausible almost despite itself, and an uninteresting story. At points here and there we are told that the setting is New York, but it’s as hard to care about that as about anything else in the book.
I really wanted to like 2024, but I couldn’t. Although theoretically it has so much going for it – the premise, the source material, the writer-artist, the political realities it reflects – it fails to entice, and it fails to add much beyond what Orwell already warned us about over half a century ago.