Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #149 by Drew Barth

Noir-vember

What’s in a grave? Usually a body. Usually a body that matches the grave listed above it. But if that was always the case, we wouldn’t have dozens of conspiracies about who could be in which grave. And that kind of conspiracy is where we get a series like Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body by Christopher Cantwell, Luca Casalanguida, and Giada Marchisio. We’ve seen every kind of conspiracy regarding the assassination of JFK—from government involvement to his head just doing that—and so many of them also center around his assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald.

The story begins in 1981, but it actually starts in 1963, but then we’re given a couple different framing devices for this story. The main crux of this first issue, however, is the assemblage of a group of disparate individuals from around Texas by an unnamed man in a trench coat. Each of these individuals has a particular skill—from not being noticed to forgery to hot wiring cars—that makes them perfect for an assignment. This assignment is, of course, the spirit of conspiracies for decades to come: find an individual who looks similar enough to Lee Harvey Oswald. For what purpose? From what the moments in the 80s we see at the beginning show, it’s to replace the real Oswald’s body. But why though?

What Cantwell, Casalanguida, and Marchisio do to make this an even more fascinating look at the idea of conspiracy theories is how they chose to frame it. Text pages from non-existent books aren’t new to comics—an Alan Moore comic without those would feel empty—but the way these pages are presented along with the further framing of the story in the 80s creates this interesting contrast of what we’re supposed to pay attention to in the story. Tangentially related to the story at hand, coming into this first issue with no idea about its general plot, these text pages would feel like they belonged to a completely different book. But once the understanding hits at the first page of comic, the reader gets drawn back into the plain text about doppelgangers and the dangers of meeting them. This kind of text in a comic can feel like a risk, but the creators here not only make it interesting, but slip in some foreshadowing for how the rest of the story will likely play out.

Seeing how this story is framed already makes me hopeful for future issues. The slow unfurling of information with a cast of disparate actors in a grand narrative is always the kind of cork-board conspiracy that I can get behind. It’s also the kind of thing that makes me wonder how much this framing text will act as foreshadowing and how much could spoil the rest of the series. We can already put our trust in Cantwell, Casalanguida, and Marchisio for this issue, so we can trust to see what kind of labyrinth they can lead us down next.

Get excited. Get conspiratorial.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.