cover image THE PLOT: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

THE PLOT: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Will Eisner, , intro. by Umberto Eco. . Norton, $23.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06045-4

Eisner's final graphic novel examines the tangled history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , a piece of anti-Semitic propaganda (with its origins in several generations of libel and plagiarism) that's been circulating for the past century. Eisner, who died earlier this year, was one of the patron saints of American comics, and his artwork improved as he got older. The ink-wash drawings here are among his most exquisite work, and his characters have the kind of grandly expressive, minutely observed body language that was his specialty. But Eisner was a far better cartoonist than a writer, and it's puzzling why an artist who thought as deeply as he did about visual narrative decided to take on a project that has no reason to be a comic book. There's basically nothing interesting for him to draw, and he adds nothing to well-documented history. The core of Eisner's book is an endless scene of two men comparing passages from it with Maurice Joly's Dialogue in Hell , from which it was plagiarized; not even the dramatization of their conversation (in a smoky Constantinople cafe) helps. The rest of the work is gorgeous to look at, but suffers from leaden expository dialogue and disastrous pacing, documenting the history of The Protocols without successfully understanding its insidious power. Agent, Judy Hansen. (May)