The critical reaction to comic book legend Will Eisner's The Plot, which he wanted to be his magnum opus, has been decidedly mixed. This book was obviously a labor of love for Eisner (he spent over twenty years working on it), and his dedication certainly shows here. I liked the book, personally. The style reminds me of another huge comic book about this subject â" The Big Book of Conspiracies by Doug Moench.
I won't say much about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion here, because either you know too much about this piece of trash already, or else you don't know nearly enough.
As a work of "graphic literature" (a fancy name for "comic book"), The Plot has some good points and bad points. Eisner's reputation as one of the Founding Fathers and undisputed masters of comic book art is well-deserved: the black-and-white minimalist artwork here is beautiful to look at, resmbling Eddie Campbell's work on Alan Moore's From Hell. But ninety percent of the entire story consists of little more than talking heads (and human figures), as we trace the history of the Protocols from beginning to end. In this respect, the work reminds me a lot of the illustrated "History of America" comic books sent to schools around the country in the late seventies and early eighties. Some critics have derided this format, saying it reduces the power of this story to little more than a history essay; and they may be right about that.
On the plus side, the story (like all of Eisner's work) is very easy to read. If you were to sit down and read every word in the book (including the excerpts from the Protocols themselves), you could breeze through the entire book in less than a couple of hours. Furthermore, the dialogue is very believable, lifelike, and entertaining; it is never dry or dull.
There are several "chapters," each focusing on one moment in history when the document comes into focus; though the story itself can roughly be divided into three parts. The first part deals with the origins of the document itself, from the original Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu to the actual first publication (and immediate worldwide acceptance) of the Protocols itself. The middle section of the book is the investigation of the authenticity of the document (by a Sherlock Holmes-type figure, complete with fedora and pipe) that led to the exposure of the Protocols as a fraud by the Times of London in 1921. However, this did nothing to stop the spread of the document and its use by hate groups worldwide, ranging from Hitler and the Nazis to modern-day Islamic terrorists. The final part of the book shows repeated exposures of the Protocols as a fraud (including an official report by the United States Senate), resulting in official figures repeatedly patting one another on the back and declaring, "This is the end of the Protocols! No one will want to use them after this!" â" only to be followed by yet another instance where this asinine document pops up and is used as "proof" of the massive worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Again, and again, and again it spreadsâ¦and the story of the Protocols still has not ended, even today.
One running theme in the book goes a long way towards explaining why people continue to believe idiocies like the Protocols: It doesn't matter that the document is a blatant lie. It matches their belief and offers justification for a so-called "Jewish conspiracy," which is why they embrace it so willingly.
For those interested in the story of the Protocols, The Plot makes for an excellent beginner's introduction and first step. I'd love to see this sent to school libraries across the country. What it does lack is a listing of reference materials â" where else can the reader go to learn the truth about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Fortunately, a quick trip to Wikipedia will point you in the right direction. Welcome to the fun world of insane conspiracy theories.