In a comic book industry where grim, dystopian futures built on a foundation of savage betrayals and devastating tragedy, Plan B are back to remind the reader to just relax and have some fun.
We start with a little exposition, delightfully presented in the form of a half-baked agent’s briefing mixed with an action news report. It’s a one-page spread to succinctly summarise the nine issues of The 4Horsefemmes. These stories built up and nearly concluded this story before it even begun.
Sounds peculiar, right? Wrong!
The build-up sets the stage for our heroes to launch into the end game of this story. They’re there to ruin the carefully crafted and hard-fought ceasefire and blindly bumble into (or steal) the glory that comes with vanquishing a barely menacing adversary.
Isn’t that just soooo Plan B?
Four Horsemen: The Heroes Nobody Want
The premise is an alien invasion of earth by green Martians from Mars, so stop me if you’ve heard that one before. They are working opposite red Martians that are aligned with our planet, and the hostilities are on hold following a ceasefire.
This incredibly flimsy ceasefire gets undone as early as a few panels into the main story. How? Our favourite, red-skinned, cigar-smoking aficionado with a badass attitude and tempter to match in Bulk attacks the green alien boss Warlord for no apparent reason.
Scrap that, there was a reason: Warlord is a jerk and Bulk didn’t like him. Oh, that’s so Plan B, and the fight is on!
Well, it starts with a rather savage butt-kicking and unfortunately, Plan B is on the wrong side of it. After getting knocked down, Warlord drops a cement slab on Melt, steps on it and tries to crush him to death. It came to the point of blood seeping from his mouth.
Bulk is knocked down by a haymaker so vicious it breaks his glasses. Primevil is unmasked and battered into unconsciousness. The tension and sheer savagery of the unfolding beatdown is a refreshing change of pace from a series that, to this point, has primarily been a light-hearted read.
All of a sudden we have both a serious situation, some major stakes, and the realisation that author Stuart Black has some versatility in his arsenal. Even Ninja himself gets in an incredibly vulnerable position.
A lucky combination of a sudden opening, excellent teamwork, and a display of the upper limits of their powers sees Plan B rally to put their foe down. The end result? They’re fired, rehired and there’s bickering about who should have to clean up all the mess they made.
The whole thing really was “idiocy and luck” as Ninja said. What’s not left to luck is the final page preview to what would surely have been the Australian comic’s crossover event of the decade.
Not to be spoiled here but suffice it to say that the furry little (or big) Australian icon that our heroes are set to encounter is no B-Grade character. It is going to be epic.
A Colourful Set of Misfits
Stuart Black backs up on his incredible debut with this ragtag bunch of misfits by once again hitting all the right high notes.
It’s funny. The dialogue and the team dynamics are great. The artwork is incredibly expressive and the book is colourful. It is an incredible combination of features that make Plan B eye-catching and fun to look at.
On top of that, we get a few new flavours thrown into the mix. There’s the hint of an origin story for Ninja and Bulk. The tension and drama that comes from building towards what appears to be a tragedy or at the very least, a cataclysmic moment. Then there’s the off-brand crossover coming. All home runs.
There are however, there are a few misses too. The dalliance into what appears to be essentially 4Horsefemmes event. Villains that aren’t tied directly to these characters. The lack of a clear developing story for this group.
The title runs a very real risk of developing into and being viewed as a book that compliments the premium characters of this universe. Between the alien event, a bevy of support characters, and numerous references to an already established brand, there was a noticeable shift of focus away from the title characters, their journey, and their development.
There were times as though they were guest stars in their own title. Simply put, with characters that are as fun and charismatic as these, that simply won’t do. Hopefully, Stuart Black backs his creation in, tells their story, and lets them stand on their feet. Otherwise, there’s every possibility that they may become the bad version of the 4Horsefemmes.
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