House of the Black Spot by Ben Sears, 80 pgs.

Sep 27, 2019

It’s hard to describe the world of Ben Sears’ Double+ stories. First, I’ll attempt to describe Sears’ style: chunky cartoonish characters that remind you of the Aardman stop motion movies à la Wallace and Gromit. I hear British accents in my head while I’m reading the dialogue in his books. There is an extremely impressive amount of detail put into the architecture and backgrounds in Sears’s comics. The lines aren’t perfectly straight but they are definitely eye candy.

Now, the Double+ stories themselves. Our main protagonist is Plus Man, an adventurer/delivery boy who always dons a helmet and goggles. He’s cool, helpful, and doesn’t put up with bullhonkey. Plus Man is accompanied by Hank, who is a floating round metal robot with arms and nothing else. The peculiar part about the robots in this universe is they are never treated as such. It’s very funny when there are references to them eating, having children, running businesses, and wearing clothes. In this wild brick and mortar, almost steampunk-ish world, Plus Man and Hank find themselves in some sort of chase or in the middle of a mystery.

In House of the Black Spot, the duo is sent out to the country home of Hank’s recently deceased uncle, Bill, for a reading of the will. And it becomes a Scooby Doo mystery from there. You got the greedy real estate moguls, the snobby son of Uncle Bill, the aloof housekeepers, and of course, the G-G-G-GHOST! The tenants are haunted by the ghost of the industrialist Frederick Wentworth. Despite it being a classic murder mystery including secret passages and red herrings, it spins a couple of Scooby Doo tropes on their head.

There are some good punk rock sensibilities in this book. Plus Man is almost like a kid in a touring band. He washes the dishes, offers to make food, is generous to his hosts, and has some pretty hilarious digs on the rich butts in the story. All without a single swear word.

This is the first Ben Sears book I have seen in full color. And he truly kills it. This is one of the most vibrant and colorful comics I have seen in a very long time. While staring and studying every detail going on in every panel, you will think you’re crying. But that’s just your eyeballs drooling. It’s a quick read that all ages will definitely enjoy. I can imagine many school kids doodling Plus Man on their book covers. –Rick V. (Koyama Press,