Right now is a good time to be Lee Harvey Oswald. I mean, except for the whole being dead thing…
Let me back up: recently, journalist Ken Klippenstein tagged several prominent right wing figures in a tweet about how they should spread the word about his “grandfather,” a US Marine. Attached to the tweet was a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was actually in the Marine Corp (anyone who saw Full Metal Jacket should be aware of this). The tweet was spread around by many of the people he tagged, and was part of a troll to show how little they know about US history, which worked, but maybe worked too well. No only did the people tagged not know who the photo was of, most bizarrely of all, once the troll was revealed, many people were outraged because they believed that Klippenstein had shopped the photo.
Obviously he did not, but it goes to show just how little most Americans actually know about this man whose single action irrevocably changed the face, and fate, of America.
And the fact that most Americans know so little about this man is strange to me. Oswald is both one of the most well known figures in US history, and at the same time, beyond his name and fate, he is a virtual unknown to many Americans.
Perhaps it’s our desire to not glorify a murderer or perhaps it’s because, as an American, his actions hit us too close to home, but whatever the reason, the lack of knowledge the general public has about him has made him a fertile subject for conspiracy theorist and fiction writers alike.
You need look no further than the smash hit comic The Department of Truth to see what I mean. Oswald is an important and prominent character in that book, and his actions on Nov 22, 1963 are the centrepiece in the turning point for Tynion’s narrative. Oswald works well as a character in the story precisely because most people just don’t know that much about him. He’s a blank slate, a figure of shock and horror, while at the same time a figure painted by many in the conspiracy community as an innocent patsy.
Which takes us to this week’s book, Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body, a brilliant new series from BOOM! Studios and creators Christopher Cantwell and Luca Casalanguida.
Here’s the blurb:
Where is Lee Harvey Oswald’s body? The Kennedy assassination is a rat’s nest of conspiracy theories: mafia involvement, the second gunman, government cover-up… but the most important chapter of this sordid tale may just be the theory that the body buried at Oswald’s Rose Hill gravesite is not actually Lee Harvey himself. Meet the ragtag group of “useful idiots” who are unwittingly brought together to clean up the crime of the century – a wannabe cowboy from Wisconsin, a Buddy Holly-idolizing (former) car thief, a world-weary Civil Rights activist ready for revolution, and a failed G-Man who still acts the part – and specifically, regarding the matter of Oswald’s body. For fans of Department of Truth and Time Before Time comes an off-kilter crime thriller set in the shadows of history’s greatest conspiracy by Eisner Award-nominated writer, producer, and director Christopher Cantwell (Iron Man, The United States of Captain America) and artist Luca Casalanguida (Lost Soldiers, Scout’s Honor).
The premise of Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body is actually pretty fascinating, if ludicrous. First theorized in the late ’60s, there are many people who believe that there were actually two Lee Harvey Oswalds: one, the actual Oswald who went through the military and was trained by the CIA for black ops work, and the other, a doppelganger who only existed to be the fall guy for the real Oswald.
The theory is, in essence, completely nuts, but that doesn’t prevent it from having a serious fan base of devoted followers, and clearly has had an influence on books like The Department of Truth, where the theory of two Oswalds is front and centre.
And yet, as crazy as this theory is, it is the very thing that elevates Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body above what might seem on the surface to be a pretty by the numbers premise.
You see, the core of the story is a pretty typical heist narrative. You’ve got all the elements you love: a rag tag group of unlikely characters, all chosen for a unique skill, all tasked by a mysterious figure with completing a seemingly easy task in return for having all their hopes and dreams come true. It’s heist writing 101, and it works well. It’s a great heist narrative, but the added conspiratorial nature is what pushes it over the top for me.
In order to be successful with a premise like this, writer Cantwell had to have done his homework, and it shows. One issue in and already the world feels fleshed out and real, and each of the characters involved feel like actual people who would both exist, and suffer in this world. I’ve read entire series that didn’t have characters this interesting or well developed, so all credit to the team for starting off so strong.
Add to this the artwork of Luca Casalanguida, whose art I have previously praised in my review for Scout’s Honor, and you have a recipe for a great ride. Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body is going to be a book you want to add to your pull, so I recommend calling your LCS and adding it today before the hype makes it disappear from the shelves.
Until next week: Stay Safe!