REVIEW: The Warren Commission Report
The Warren Commission Report
By Dan Mishkin, Ernie Colon, and Jerzy Drozd
Abrams ComicArts, 160 pages, $29.95
Conspiracies are everywhere if you know where to look. Over the last century, Americans have increasingly looked for dire machinations behind the unbelievable. Much as our ancestors sat around campfires telling mythic tales to explain how the sun rose each day, today, people make up fantastical stories to make the impossible comprehensible.
With the growth of mass media, from film to radio to television to the internet, studies have shown we have gravitated towards like-minded thinking, narrowing our worldview and therefore giving voice and importance to ones who would have once been considered mad. This development gained traction and accelerated its piercing of the zeitgeist thanks largely to ineptitude. America knew Japan was going to bomb throughout the Pacific but didn’t say a word much as we knew there were foreigners acting suspiciously in 2001. But the largest of these incompetency’s may well be the actions taken in the minutes, hours, and days that followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Today, there is a growing subset of graphic novels that condense and streamline mass amounts of information for our benefit. There was Economix for finance and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Now comes The Warren Commission Report, a handy one-volume guide to the facts, inconsistencies and theories surrounding the events of November 22, 1963. Adapted from the report, released September 27, 1964, writer Dan Mishkin deftly takes the reader through the indisputable facts and into the murky world of error, evasion, and espionage.
Looking back, it’s astonishing to see how inept and ineffective local and federal authorities were to secure the crime scene and preserve the evidence. We’re a CSI generation, used to minute inspection of every hair follicle and fiber, so the notion that precise measurements were not taken or that detailed studies of the president’s body were delayed, hurried, or incomplete is mindboggling. So too the inexplicably lax security when assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was moved, allowing Jack Ruby to get close enough to kill the killer.
Mishkin takes us step by step through the investigation, shining a bright light thanks to declassified and public documents that were not available at the time. He shows where mistakes were made, where politics and ass-covering led to facts being obfuscated, which went on to fan the embers that grew into the conspiracy fire. He also doubles back to introduce us to Oswald and how he had remained on intelligence radar for some time but agencies then, as now, didn’t share information or collaborate in the name of national security.
Brining Mishkin’s work to life is the art team of Ernie Colon and Jerzy Drozd, the former having gained newfound fame through the 9/11 graphic novel. Colon’s distinctive style is altered, not always for the best, by Drozd but the familiar faces of Kennedy, Oswald, Lyndon Johnson, and J. Edgar Hoover are readily recognizable. The storytelling is quite clear with the interesting color choice of making Oswald an all-white figure, letting him standout from the crowd wherever he is seen, devoid of connection to humanity. If there’s a visual fault it comes to some questionable balloon and caption placements that mar the smooth flow of the text.
This book does not attempt to sanctify or refute the report or the theories around it but offer clarity, especially the last two dozen pages or so that places the events in the larger context of a rapidly changing society as the 1950s conformity gave way to a rebellion of individualism. This may be one of the strongest parts of the book, since context, as we know, is everything.
For those who lived through it, this will bring some comfort and some new insights. For those who were born a generation or more after, this is a good primer to what America was once like and how it helped shape the world we currently live in.