Battle at the Comic Expo's audience is difficult to easily peg: take dark satirical humor, blend in action/thriller sci-fi elements, and add the specter of a comic convention threatened by forces of evil that move from comic pages into reality and from a zany romp into a world replete with dangerously obsessed fangirls and explosive, emotionally complex relationships. But somehow author Richard Andreoli makes all of this work in his fascinating, dramatic and chaotic novel.
In the story, Ron Lionel has created a blockbuster comic series - The Enduring - that is a monster hit. He is hugely popular (and arrogant) but far less successful is his approach to life, which involves manipulating others to get what he wants. Nonetheless, Ron is realizing his dreams. Joe, in contrast, has long ago given up on his artistic ambitions and just lives to get by. His role as Security Chief at the comic book expo gets him close enough to his goal of supporting justice and fighting for the right side.
When these worlds collide, they do so with a bang that's heralded by an obsessed fan searching for answers Ron can't quite provide.
Readers familiar with comic convention culture and proceedings will quickly recognize all the trappings of a real convention in Andreoli's dark, satirical production. He is clearly familiar with this realm and its quirky, passionate participants (he worked as a marketing writer at Comic-Con for years), and this knowledge imbibes Battle at the Comic Expo's events with a real-world grittiness and humor.
References to this world (Dark Horse Comics, new ventures and industry partnerships) juxtapose with the passions of notoriously believable quirky fans to make for a vivid read that will be especially spot-on to anyone who has attended one of these conventions.
Another notable feature of Battle at the Comic Expo lies in its ability to take this bizarre-but-predictable setting and turn it on edge with larger-than-life events that are both mind-blowing and satisfying in their details. A fan's warped vision of what should be in the comics world may be the very force that destroys it, with only an egotist and a stalwart security guard standing between devastation and despair and the ultimate survival of the largest comic expo in America.
Can fangirl Velma discern between right and wrong? Can Joe prevent murder? And can he and Ron tap into Velma's obsession with Ron's fantasy world to draw her into different choices than the disaster she is careening towards.
Ron and Joe aren't friends; but they're about to share some of the same interests in a conjoined quest for survival not only of themselves, but the comic world that supports them both.
Take a highly successful egotist's irresistible fantasy creation, add a justice-believing outsider's quest to prevent disaster on his watch, and mix in underlying questions about good and evil, reality and fantasy, and good intentions gone awry for a powerful, multifaceted story that toes the line between fantasy, detective piece and comic world exposé.
Replete with tension, action, and anxiety, Battle at the Comic Expo's injection of dark humor permeates a gripping story that excels in the unexpected while remaining firmly based in comic culture. Readers will relish its ability to teleport at warp speed between various genres while retaining a sense of originality and drama that makes the story vivid, unpredictable, and nearly impossible to put down.