This book was dropped on my desk with a post-it note that read, “READ THIS NOW! I think you will love it!” I instantly obeyed, dropping everything to read this book from beginning to end. I’m glad I did.
This book is beautiful.
The novel follows a nine-year-old boy named Alex and his mom on a road trip from New York City to California. Their road trip is decorated with visits to comic conventions where Alex’s mom has a cult following he is only vaguely aware of. He knows his mother was an actress, but he sees beyond the spotlight when it comes to her. She’s his mom. However, his mom is hiding a secret about the motivating factor for this trip. It’s time for Alex to live with his dad for a bit. She’s going to have one last good trip with him first.
Along the convention road trip we meet aspiring comic book writers and artists whose stories inspire as they navigate the surprisingly difficult comic industry. Networking, people-pleasing, and skills aren’t enough, as we find out. Luck is involved too. This difficulty creates the sense of place for the reader as we struggle along with the characters from Chicago to a fictional version of San Diego’s Comic Con. Each character, on this convention road trip, carries their own burden that they use the comic world to disappear from. However, we know that no one can’t escape from their past forever and they all face their demons at one point or another on the journey.
Fictional versions of real people is key to this novel. Bob Proehl makes subtle winks to iconic figures like Stan Lee, Gail Simone, Alan Moore, and Chris Coulter (writer of “X-Files”). There’s also minor homages to Doctor Who, Spiderman, and others. The amount of pop culture references is endless. I could list them, but that might take a while. This could lead to a problem with the average reader who might not be “in the know” about all things comic and convention related. That is not the intention.
On Goodreads, Proehl said, “There are lots of Easter eggs for people who are into comics, but I really didn’t want the book to be all in-jokes and references. The story of the mother and son is very much the center of the book, and my hope is that it shows what’s great (and not so great) about fandom and conventions so that anyone can relate.” This hope is realized enough that some friends I knew who read this book could follow along at the same wavelength as my nerdy friends. Bob Proehl also does a great job painting the comic convention floor in such a way that frequent con-goers will reminisce about while newcomers can see the magic for the first time.
His story, at its heart, is about a mother and son. The setting depicts these places where hundreds of worlds can come together in one building and yet any world will have the same importance. People crave the love of family (however that family is made up) and no obstacles can destroy that. Alex knows this better than anyone. He is an incredibly lovable kid and perfect guide to take us around the convention floor.
Whether you’re a comic book nerd or just a regular fiction, there is something for everyone in these pages. It’s worth dropping all your other books to read.
4 Comic Con Road Trips out of 5