A pleasant, if slight, episode... a tribute to comics geekery and a reminder of the shabby way that far too many artists, outside comics as well as within that community, are treated even as their work remains a cash cow for others (perhaps not a coincidence that this theme should arise in a show presumably put together as the WGA strike loomed).
At a comics convention in Los Angeles (but one looking considerably smaller if as diversely attended as Comi-Con), an arrogant artist-turned-mogul, Miles Sklar (Wil Wheaton), displays with much ceremony his newly purchased "ashcan" issue of a (fictional) important superhero comic from the early 1960s. An "ashcan" issue is one produced solely for trademark and/or copyright reasons, never meant for public distribution, and this one is believed to be the only copy extant. A prominent "alternative" comics creator, Seth Marlowe (Ben Feldman), looks on in disgust, until thugs rush in and force Sklar at gunpoint to turn over the comic. In the course of the robbery, a security guard and a bystander are shot. Our FBI unit is called in, to the delight of Agent Sinclair (Alimi Ballard), a comics fan and mildly serious collector since childhood. Although he is also being pursued by a
Vanity Fair reporter (Joe Morton) hoping to speak with his friends and family for a profile, Charlie is also soon pulled into the case as well, with assistance as usual from Amita and Larry.
Marlowe soon becomes both a source of information for our heroes and a prime suspect, as he makes no secret of his resentment of Sklar and of his belief that the valuable comic should be given to its creator, comics legend Ross Moore (Christopher Lloyd), now plagued by health problems and running low on funds. Moore, for his part, would like nothing more than to bequeath the issue, worth up to well over a million dollars at auction, to his wife, so that she might be comfortable for the rest of her life. It becomes clear rather early on that Marlowe is indeed involved in the robbery, and the rest of the episode is devoted mostly to tying him to the thugs who actually stole it, and working out the means to tell a series of forgeries Marlowe is circulating from the actual ashcan issue.
At an auction to benefit Ross that Marlowe has proposed, Charlie finds the real ashcan issue, which doesn't have a telltale mark on the cover Marlowe put in his fakes, and is able to outbid Marlowe and his confederate for it, before the actual arrest... and the revelation that Sklar had been shamed into donating the real copy to Ross. Other threads running throughout the episode involve Don's distraction as he mourns the death of his affair with Liz, and Megan's bet with Granger that she could fix him up with a woman who might be to his liking... a bet she wins by introducing him to a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
A nice bit of backgrounding on Charlie, as we see Larry and Amita and then father Alan answering the questions of the magazine reporter, giving slightly guarded but honest opinions about Charlie and the reasoning behind his book (we don't see brother Don's interview, but we hear a bit of its to-be-published version read aloud at the end). A little bit of recursion, wherein Don and Charlie joke about the unlikelihood of anyone seeing their lives and work together as a fit subject for entertainment, and Sinclair gets the unlikely stunt of the week, jumping on an assailant who threatens to shoot Don from a height of at least 20 feet (allowing Granger to make a Superman joke).
Biggest improbability of the week would be an elderly persons' assisted-living community with a multi-flight stairwell but no apparent elevator (at least, one would hope it was an improbability). And, of course, not only were comics geeks stroked, but cult television and sf fans were given representatives among the Con-goers, in addition to the participation of Morton, Wheaton and Lloyd... even if none was truly at the heart of the episode.
A pleasant if slight episode a tribute to comics geekery and a reminder of the shabby way that far too many artists outside comics as well as within that community are treated even as their work remains a cash cow for others perhaps not a coincidence that this theme should arise in a show presumably put together as the WGA strike loomedAt a comics convention in Los Angeles but one looking considerably smaller if as diversely attended as Comi-Con an arrogant artist-turned-mogul Miles Sklar Wil Wheaton displays with much ceremony his newly purchased ashcan issue of a fictional important superhero comic from the early 1960s An ashcan issue is one produced solely for trademark andor copyright reasons never meant for public distribution and this one is believed to be the only copy extant A prominent alternative comics creator Seth Marlowe Ben Feldman looks on in disgust until thugs rush in and force Sklar at gunpoint to turn over the comic In the cours