The Con Artists

The prologue alone to Luke Healy's sharp, skilled The Con Artists is a wow-inducing example of show-don't-tell genius. "Oh, hello. I'm Luke Healy, the author of this book. No big deal," he modestly introduces himself. As he reads "a prepared statement"--the usual "entirely fictional... purely coincidental" disclaimer, albeit embellished with clever snark about Shakespeare's "very robust brand" compared with his own relatively prosaic name, shared with an actor, singer, TV character--his stand-in, rendered in fine line, seems to float from comfy armchair to makeup to wardrobe, to transform into the fictional protagonist who opens Chapter 1.  

Sitting in a London café, Frank is setting his goals with his best friend: "The year we become famous comedians... find true love... start therapy, and don't kill our house plants." But a rare phone call from his childhood friend Giorgio, whom he sees for dinner maybe twice a year, derails his careful plans. Giorgio's been hit by a bus. Somehow he "just knew" Frank would come to the hospital, be helpful, even become his live-in caretaker. In such close quarters, the all-togetherness Giorgio displays on Instagram, which Frank had "just assumed... was all true," proves anything but.

Healy's strikingly simple black/white/grey line-drawn panels belie a complex examination of the eponymous con artists, clouded by self-delusion, enabled by social media. While centering Frank and Giorgio's devolving relationship, Healy also interjects Frank's stand-up sets and therapy sessions--both painful and illuminating to witness. Unlike his struggling, often sophomoric, characters, Healy shows himself to be quite the sophisticated graphic storyteller. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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