Big Con-Job #1 Review – A Humorous, Emotional Send-up of Con Culture

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Big Con-Job #1 is the first part of a four issue miniseries about the lives of past-their-prime sci-fi actors, who barely making ends meet from their convention appearances. However, their fortunes change when a sleazy promoter gives them a chance at the score of a lifetime.

The comic’s publicity material describes it as “Oceans 11 meets Galaxy Quest”. Big Con-Job is written by comics (and con) veteran Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn, Painkiller Jane) and newcomer/Newsarama editor Matt Brady, with art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton (Fanboys vs. Zombies), and colors by Paul Little (Morning Glories).

Have you ever been to a comic or other fan convention?

If not, what are you waiting for? The rise of big con promoters like Wizard and ReedPOP has ensured that a menagerie of former Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer actors, people who got killed off on The Walking Dead, ex-Power Rangersand senior citizen comics creators are ready to sign your posters and answer your awkward questions at panels. And they’re only short drive away from most American and Canadian (and British and Australian) cities unless you live in Manitoba or Montana or one of the Dakotas. But not much has been written about them in the comics medium besides gag comics like Image’s Tales from the Con or the wickedly fun Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International (co-written by Con-Job‘s Jimmy Palmiotti). Big Con-Job #1 breaks this silence by looking at the post-fame lives of several cast members of a cult sci-fi show.

Is Big Con-Job #1 actually funny?

The first pages of the comic are a pitch perfect homage/parody to the post-Star Wars sci-fi TV shows, like Battlestar Galactica and stuff my parents watched growing up with a dash of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are cheesy one-liners, technobabble, and artist Domo Stanton combines two famous Star Trek and Star Wars archetypes in his costume designs. Then, boom, he cuts immediately to a couple of aging sci-fi actors sitting at a fan panel. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady use this opening Q and A scene to poke fun at the inane and sometimes invasive questions fans ask of creators and talents. And when it wants to be, Big Con-Job #1 is a perceptive satire of geek culture and their behavior towards celebrities in and around conventions. However, the comic is dark and serious at times.

Oh no! Does this cancel out the comedy?

You actually should. The lead characters are written like real people with actual problems and not caricatures or stereotypes. Palmiotti and Brady also use this issue to delve into several of the cast members of Treck Wars before introducing the heist storyline that will be the main plot of the miniseries. Danny Dean, who played the hero Buck Blaster (Captain Kirk and Flash Gordon’s tights wearing lovechild) gets a particularly poignant emotional arc as he struggles to pay his rent and groceries from con appearance and diabetes ads. There is also Poach Brewster, the scientist from the show, who is struggling in his relationship with a much younger woman, and Blaze Storm, who isn’t afraid to stand up to their slightly clueless agent Nick. By the end of the issue, these characters are fully fleshed out and sympathetic even if not much crime happens in the first issue.

How is the art and coloring?

Artist Domo Stanton and colorist Paul Little do a good job balancing comedy and tragedy. Little can transition from the bright contrasts of the Treck War TV show to the muted palette of the con floor and even lots of greys for a particularly emotional scene featuring one of the characters, which is handled very tastefully by Stanton. The backgrounds in his art can be generic at times, and he has a habit of introducing female cleavage during serious emotional moments, but he and Paul Little have a nice handle of the rhythm and tone of the story with a larger panels for the slower, more intimate moments to the broad comedy of the actual convention. Stanton also gives each character a unique look having to do with their personality so they don’t get lost in the flood of fanboys and fangirls.

Should I buy this comic?

I think that this comic is a must-read for anyone who has gone to a comic convention, seen the high prices for autographs with  William Shatner or Stan Lee and cursed either the celebrity or con organizers. As a veteran of both the comics and television industry, Jimmy Palmiotti is well-versed in the nuances and problems of comic conventions and exposes them in Big Con-Job #1 while creating a rag-tag bunch of washed up sci-fi actors, who just want financial security. However, Big Con-Job isn’t just about geek culture and delves into things like depression, relationship problems, and the most primal human problem of all: survival. It has its sad moments, but they’re balanced by a heavy helping of parody, cheesy one-liners, and pop culture references.

 

 

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