There is something very wrong about following a vengeful JFK in pursuit of his killers but Craig Frank is willing to go there in his graphic novel, “JFK: SECRET OPS.” It is dark humor to be sure. What makes it work is Frank’s unabashed commitment to stay the course. Okay then, giddy up, pardner, cause we’re on a bumpy conspiracy theory-laden crazy ride. Where do I find these unusual works? Well, it ain’t easy but it’s fun.
A very big part of the appeal of this book is its ferocious animated style. Take a look, here, Frank knows and loves to draw cars. It’s not something every cartoonist takes to with such gusto. You can tell there were some key images that Frank was rolling around in his head as he set out to create this. Car chases! Guns! Girls! Rat Pack terror! He succeeds in a lot of ways. Maybe the only trouble, at times, is keeping up with all the people on JFK’s list of killers. But that’s alright. Maybe we want to scratch every possible conspiratorial itch. And we definitely want as many loopy things as possible, like JFK hanging out with Sammy Davis, Jr.
In many ways, you can’t get enough of this material. There is that strange attraction to JFK that we may never break free from. He is of the relative distant past and yet contemporary enough to still leave a sting. And, oh, what a sting when you start to think about it. That’s the thing. This is a story, and a tragedy, with a ripple effect to go on indefinitely. Some might even say it’s still too soon to create a book like this but, on the other hand, crass humor has its place.
In other ways, I can see where some paring down would have made this work that much better. It’s a matter of preference, for me, since I really have to hand it to Frank for what he’s accomplished. As it is, it’s a wild free-for-all that, to my taste, seems better suited for animation. Frank is, after all, a professional animator. And, hell yes, I’d definitely buy a DVD of the animated version to this story.
But, let me backtrack just a bit. I think this graphic novel is something of a hairy beast. JFK, like a Frankenstein monster, is going to stay the course no matter what. JFK ploughs through. It’s a very fluid ploughing through that could have been helped by a more precise composing of the comics page. That said, this is a solid piece of dark, sweaty, gritty humor.
I offer up this criticism with great respect for Frank. The truth is that taking on a graphic novel is a challenge, especially at the scale Frank is working at. This 260-page graphic novel is a wild ride.
“JFK: SECRET OPS” is on its way to an outlet near you. Check the internets. You can view my special Skype interview (Ooh ahh, Skype!) with Craig Frank right here.