A roving comic-book artist loses his mentor, his nemesis, and his hope for a love life over the course of one Comic-Con, which threatens the loss of his freedom as well.
Michael “Mike M” Miller thinks nothing of it when his comic-book character Violent Violet picks him up from the San Diego airport. After all, he’s in town for Comic-Con, a celebration of comic books, where costumes are an essential part of the experience. It’s a shame when Violet gives Mike the news that his longtime mentor and friend Benjamin Kurtz, aka Ben K, the creator of Mister Mystery, has died too suddenly to give Mike a chance to say goodbye. The news definitely makes Mike reflect on his own lifestyle. Since a breakup with his wife, Christine Black, a few years ago, Mike has become a nomad, traveling to different cities’ Comic-Cons, drawing some custom illustrations for fans, and then shuffling off to the next venue. Even the people around Mike don’t change from city to city. Though he hasn’t been pleased to learn that Christine was supposed to be in San Diego, he especially hopes to avoid Danny Lieber, one of Atlas Entertainment’s biggest hacks. Mike has never gotten over Christine’s cheating on him with Danny, which added insult to injury after Danny tried to cut Mike’s per-page rate. But Mike’s hopes for reconciliation seem to be dashed by the news that Christine has moved on to another winner in current it writer Sebastian Mod. Christine’s choice of partner may make Sebastian Mike’s biggest enemy. But when Danny is murdered at the con, Mike becomes the obvious suspect anyway. If Mike didn’t kill Danny, who did? Unless the cops find a more likely suspect, Mike may finally put down roots in a San Diego prison.
Despite his signature fast pace and multifaceted, visually striking characters, Van Lente (Ten Dead Comedians, 2017) merges mystery and comics culture with mixed results and perhaps too many subplots. Tom Fowler's accompanying illustrations are accomplished, but the book format doesn’t display them to best advantage.