Regarding The Matter of Oswald's Body #1 Review: A Crime Caper Set Amidst American Iconography

Those unfamiliar with the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963 are unlikely to perceive much substance beyond the "getting the band together" dynamics in Regarding the Matter of Oswald's Body #1. Dates, names, and appearances linked to the assassination (and abundant conspiracy theories surrounding it) fill the issue and provide notes of foreshadowing and irony for those who know a bit of history. The assassination remains a focal point in American history and culture, though, continuing to evoke powerful sentiments and reactions nearly 60 years after Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin, was murdered and the Warren Commission closed their investigation of the event. And so this debut steeped in historical references and signposts for the era feels familiar, even as it displays a setting most readers have no ability to recall. It speaks to the power of the cultural memory it examines and how that memory continues to reflect our present moment.

Drawing those connections requires outside knowledge, however, as Regarding the Matter of Oswald's Body #1 is presented as a heist introduction. The only textual allusions to what comes next are a framing sequence at the very start set in 1981 and an org. chart filled with redacted names, only some of which are revealed on the final page. Most of the issue is composed of four brief vignettes introducing characters scattered across Texas with skills and motives which make them useful for a secretive criminal caper. Each segment ends with the individual meeting a mysterious G-man who knows exactly what they can do, what they want, and how to wield that leverage over them.

These introductory segments could read as issue #1 rigamarole in less deft hands, but writer Christopher Cantwell has a knack for effective characterization and artist Luca Casalanguida excels at portraying personality in both design and expression. A sympathetic stick-up man, car thief with artistic aspirations, prodigal son with a sharp eye, and activist whose luck and patience have run out deliver readers an eclectic crew with no obvious favorites. Each member arrives fully formed - imperfect, but difficult to dislike. 

Small moments, like Shep dropping his head in his truck after a disappointing heist, are allowed space to breathe and deliver readers a sense of desperation and resolve that is absolutely necessary to sell whatever comes next. Even though the narrative is wrapped in threads of history and conspiracy, featuring a wide collection of recognizable names and strands of both evidence and theory, it is based in character.

This focus allows Regarding the Matter of Oswald's Body #1 to ensnare even readers who are not particularly invested in its surrounding events, assuming they enjoy a heist. Yet it's the dramatic irony of what we all know must come next that makes this oddball crew's situation fascinating. The assassination of Kennedy is not simply the murder of a powerful man, but a moment that has come to reflect his moment. That means aspects of America's racial and class divisions, the operation of clandestine organizations, and a quickly shifting political landscape are all at play both in the lives of these individuals and future repercussions of their actions. It's a potent arrangement and one that promises to deliver some insight by the debut's final page.

The conspiracy ahead remains hidden both from readers and the key actors of this miniseries, but it's set up in Regarding the Matter of Oswald's Body #1 is a fascinating affair. Each character introduction adds something significant to the story's heist and what that particular heist reflects about the nation whose history it will forever alter. Cantwell and Casalanguida avoid obsessing over the facts of the case in order to get at a larger truth about America's collective obsession with this moment and what it says about us. Whatever conclusions they've arrived at, I'm very interested to read more.

Published by Boom Studios

On November 10, 2021

Written by Christopher Cantwell

Art by Luca Casalanguida

Colors by Giada Marchisio

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Letters by AndWorld Design

Cover by Luca Casalanguida