In this short story, Keating’s (Reagan Country, 2018, etc.) recurring cleric Stephen Grant steps up to help a popular comic-book creator targeted by armed assailants.
Grant, the pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on New York’s Long Island, agrees to attend a locally held comics convention with assistant pastor Zack Charmichael. The first night of the event involves a lifetime achievement award ceremony for writer and artist Wes Jenkins, whose work Zack greatly admires. Zack and Stephen’s after-dinner encounter with Wes and his wife, Kelly, turns out to be fortuitous for everyone when Stephen, a former Navy SEAL and CIA operative, thwarts would-be killers brandishing shotguns. The attack may be a reaction to Wes’ recent article criticizing the comic industry’s leftist slant. Wes, who co-founded J&H Comic Publishing with Simon Huck, says that he just wants to tell good stories, but some have taken exception to his work’s apparent conservatism, sometimes expressed through biblical allegories. Protesters make their presence known during the con’s next two days. When kidnappers eventually abduct someone, Stephen is quickly on their trail, and he has plenty of help—a convention’s worth of superheroes. The series’ protagonist remains a man of action even though the story isn’t novel-length. This relatively short piece is lighter in tone than previous outings, due mainly to its concentration on the cheery setting. Keating respectfully portrays the con as a mostly enjoyable experience—even though Zack is the only true comic-book aficionado. The story’s point of view is unmistakably conservative, but it doesn’t portray some characters’ extreme views as being typical leftist beliefs. Despite the story’s brevity, it manages to flesh out new characters, such as Wes and Kelly, although the mystery isn’t too difficult to puzzle out. Much of the comedy is appropriate to the setting, as when people assume that the pastors’ clerical garments are costumes honoring the real-life comic-book series Preacher.
An entertaining, immersive jaunt with a formidable protagonist.