Five years ago, Victor Lai, an up-and-coming reporter, attended Long Con, “the world’s biggest (and longest) comic convention.” Unfortunately, this also happened to be the epicenter of a devastating catastrophe that decimated the convention hall and everything in a fifty-mile radius. Now, as one of the only survivors, Victor is called upon to investigate claims that the con-goers are less dead than previously thought. And to his surprise, he discovers a thriving post-apocalyptic nerd community thriving within the walls of the degraded La Spinoza Convention Center.
With the help of his old friend, a comic editor named Dez, Victor will have to navigate this society in all its geeky grit if he ever hopes to return to civilization and undercover the mystery behind the convention’s destruction and deceptive quarantine.
Sharp, relevant, and in touch with every fandom referenced: the writing of Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman is fantastic. All the characters in this volume are all real and relatable, specifically Victor. It is an excellent idea to have an outsider (Victor) in a world of geek culture. It allows each reader to learn about portions of geekdom they aren’t aware of with fresh eyes as Vic learns. No judgment. Though, we can also laugh when he doesn’t know the information we are so commonly familiar with. On the whole, The Long Con exists as a duality: both a love letter and a satire of geek culture.
By making nerds, geeks, and dorks both bad guys and good guys, it gives us a chance to react truthfully. We can identify with the parts of geek culture that foster community and empowerment. At the same time, we can call out and address the parts of geekdom that make it unpalatable and toxic. For example, you will realize the authors make a pretty damning comment about “gatekeeping” in geek culture. Meconis and Coleman arguably express that those who “gatekeep” are hurtful to others. It’s subtle. Blink and you’ll miss it. But it’s there. It’s clever. And as a geek who has seen that behavior too much, I find this satire much appreciated.
The Aesthetic Con-tent
Ea Denich and M. Victoria Robado make a book that is simply delightful to view. The feel of The Long Con is cartoonish, but not too abstract. Heavy line art mixed with decisive colors makes for a fun and distinct book. Each character looks unique and conveys their respective race, gender, and overall character/s. The grungy con-goer crowd has an unshaven scruff. The punk crowd has appropriately dyed hair. And the celebrities are Hollywood high fashion.
Denich and Robado are masters of “background necessity.” They are gosh darn experts at knowing when to render a background and when to use a fill color. Rather than detracting from the book, it adds emotion to the panels it’s used in. It draws the eye to the characters and the action. This technique could easily have been misused and could have made the book feel cheap. Instead, it heightens the novel. I truly only noticed the technique towards the end of the novel when it was used expressively to show a personal connection between two characters: as the two united, the colored backgrounds did as well.
Colors can make or break a comic, and the colors of The Long Con make it all the better. Robado does a superb job bringing the pencils and inks of Denich to life. Admittedly, there are a few shots that could have been more dynamically colored, such as some of the splash pages (so as to bring out more of the detail in the art), but these moments are few and far between.
A Con-cert of Comedy
The humor in this book is off the chain. One might reasonably believe that a comic book about geek culture would skew heavily toward comic jokes, tropes, and references. However, The Long Con smashes expectations.
There are obvious nods to famous comic books, such as X-men: Days of Future Past, but there are a plethora of other jokes as well, such as Star Trek references and even a small wink to the old Zelda cartoon (which absolutely blew my mind). These nods to different franchises and industries flesh out the world being portrayed, suspending disbelief, and invite the reader to fully immerse themselves in the culture of Long Con.
The Easter Eggs are next level incredible. I would stay on splash pages for extra minutes just to appreciate all the little details the artist hid on the page, such as Funko Pops, furry culture, steam punk cosplay, Red Sonja, Pokémon, and the freaking Eisner Awards.
Upon a second reading of the book, I couldn’t help but find more surprises. In all honesty, anything less than this level of effort would make the convention come off as fake or skin-deep. Meconis, Coleman, Denich, Robado, and Bidikar poured real love and respect for every facet of fandom into the pages of The Long Con Volume 1, and it shows.
While the beginning of the story is a smidge slow, once the book finds its pacing and the reader matches it, The Long Con Volume 1 is a laugh-out-loud love letter of a journey from start to finish. The end of the volume felt abrupt, however, and you can bet your bottom dollar it leaves you longing for volume 2.
I would honestly love to see this adapted to an animated mini-series online. I hesitate to say TV or a big streaming service like Netflix only because I don’t want it to lose any of the unbelievable charm and detail that makes this a standout story. The long and short of it? Pick up The Long Con Volume 1 by Oni Press. It’s worth the price of admission.