Title: Renegade: Martin Luther: The Graphic Biography
Authors: Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino
Publisher: Plough Publishing House, Walden, New York
Date Published: 2017
Number of pages: 156
Reviewed by Dale E. Luffman for the Association for Mormon Letters
Texts and biographies of Luther have been abundant of late, no doubt precipitated by the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Reformation. *Renegade: Martin Luther: The Graphic Biography*, published by Plough Publishing House, joins the ever growing list of publications devoted to Martin Luther and the Reformation. But it does so in a format quite distinct from others. The uniqueness of the volume is that it is a graphic biography, a quarterly actually. The volume is based on an earlier German edition, published in 2016.
With graphic art representing the geography, characters, and actions depicted by dialogue identified in a manner encountered in comic books, the art work presentation, accompanied by narrative, presents an unusual yet inviting format. Often dark and foreboding, the artwork carries the reader along in the narrative journey constructed by its authors.
The purpose of the text is said to be “to encourage people and help them put their faith into action” [Title Page]. Plough Publishing is the publishing house of the Bruderhof community. The community is an expression of an Anabaptist tradition that is committed to a way of radical discipleship informed by their reading of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew, chapters 5, 6, & 7]. They are also informed in their discipleship by having all things in common as portrayed in Acts 2 & 4, and they are committed to the way of non-violence.
*Renegade: Martin Luther: The Graphic Biography* is presented to the reader in ten chapters depicting selected historical epochs in Luther’s life and that of the Reformation. Chapter titles offer a map of the movement of the biography, beginning with “In Dark Times”, the introductory chapter. Successive chapters follow: “The Lightning Bolt”, “The Monk in Rome”, “The Freedom of Faith”, “Money in the Coffers”, “Face to Face with the Emperor”, “In Hiding”, “The Morning Star of Wittenberg”, “Their Blood Is on My Hands”, “A Beggar’s Farewell”, and concluding with an Epilogue. At the conclusion of the text are individual graphic pictures of the cast of characters present in the depicted narrative.
One of the striking characteristics of this graphic depiction of Martin Luther is the hermeneutical bias that pervades the text. Not only does one experience a dark, sometimes foreboding artistic presentation of the saga, one encounters a rather gloomy narrative, which may indeed be reflective of the times. The text exudes an Anabaptist perspective on the Reformation and on Martin Luther. It also subtly projects the bias of the Bruderhof community into the narrative and dialogue of the text.
There is nothing new here in this colorful, unvarnished narrative. What the volume commends is a unique, and for some, an accessible format. Like every biography it has its point of view, on that is reflected not only in the perspective of the Anabaptist tradition but the Bruderhof communities perspective as well. To its credit it presents Luther as a searching, seeking, all-too-human figure – – a refreshing corrective for some rather naive contemporary accounts of Luther.
Latter-day Saints might find this to be a text worthy of consideration simply because of its accessibility and its depiction of a brash young monk who sparked the Protestant Reformation. One does not need to know Reformation history, or even much about Martin Luther, in order to enter into the storyline of this graphic biography. If the reader is willing to enter into an alternative theological world, a world defined by the expanse of time, but also a world defined by traditions of faith, then this may be volume to engage.
Ciponte, Palmerino, “Renegade: Martin Luther: The Graphic Biography” (reviewed by Dale E. Luffman)