Monday, March 14, 2016

Review of Stuart Black's The 4Horsefemmes, and my first shameless marketing promo

It's time for my very first shameless sales pitch for my very first marketing promotion as the Director of Social Media Marketing! Time to earn my bread! Here we go! WHOOHOOO!!!
Yes, friends! This comic, by the awesomely talented Stuart Black, creator of The 4Horsefemmes, has produced the comic with the VERY FIRST APPEARANCE of The Mighty One - ANYWHERE!  It is issue #7, but don't hesitate to buy the whole series while you're at it!  I've owed this dude a review for a long time now, and I'll be taking care of that below, but first, make sure you get a copy of 4HFs #7 in your greedy and grubby little hands as quickly as possible!  Otherwise, you'll be dissed and maybe even cussed out by your kids, grandkids, and even great-grandkids for having missed this historic opportunity!  Okay, time for the review!

Gosh, what to say about Stuart Black and his book, The 4Horsefemmes?  Let's go ahead and start by introducing his four main characters.  They are, in no particular order, Lacey the sword-swinging de facto leader of the group, Mussk the sai-wielding blonde who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish, Rasta the Hawaiian who is from a family of super-powered folks, and Talena, whom Stuart describes as a "loveable douchebag."  Talena's power is basically the discharging of static electricity for mostly destructive actions.  There's also Harvey, Talena's turtle, who is just a turtle.  He doesn't talk or anything, he's just a turtle, but he's a cute little guy!

What I'm about to get into now is kinda spoilery, so if you haven't read The 4Horsefemmes and don't want what's in it spoiled for you, then

STOP READING NOW!!!  You have been warned!!!

The first four issues begin with Lacey and Talena on the run from Australia's superhero team, Supreme Justice (did I mention that Stuart is from Australia, and that his stories take place there?  Now you know!), and have been for years. Lacey and Talena are located by Mussk and Rasta, who are members of SJ.  But a bad guy named Satan (not THAT Satan, but if you have a name like "Satan", you gotta be a bad guy, right?) is also pursuing Talena, and after a brawl in which Talena basically tasers Satan, Lacey and Talena are back on the run.   

Long story short, it turns out that the head of SJ is actually a bad guy, and the other bad guys also pursuing Lacey and Talena are all doing so on his orders.  So, he has his SJ team looking for Lacey and Talena, and he also has bad guys looking for them. Big battle happens, the head bad guy loses, and Rasta and Mussk join up with Lacey and Talena, and The 4Horsefemmes are born.  I don't want to reveal TOO much of this story arc, because I won't do it justice.  You'll just have to read the books yourself!

After this first story arc, Stuart takes a one issue respite with a book called Plan B, which is another superhero team that also works for SJ (by the way, The 4HFs now work for SJ as well), and it is basically Stuart's way of having a little fun, and it is indeed a quick and fun read.  His current story arc is about an invasion from Mars, and it's in the 7th issue that The Mighty One makes her appearance.  She's come to help out, but is stopped by a giant glowing energy shield that's surrounding the SJ headquarters, where The 4HFs are trapped.  The Mighty One does not like big, glowy energy shields stopping her punches, but what can she do?  This isn't her book!  LOL

I'm going to stop here in regards to describing the stories, because really, you'll just have to read them.  But I will say this - Stuart's books are a fun, fun read, and you will go through each book very quickly.  For those of you who may want to be told of this, there's adult language, and there's heads and other body parts being lopped off, and other kinds of "PG-17"-type fare.  For those of you who are Christian (as I am), there's also an occasional use of the Lord's name in vain, although I don't get the impression at all that Stuart is out to bash Christianity.  So in short, The 4HFs isn't a kids' book, so be aware of that!  The stories themselves are fast-paced, and the backstory scenes of Lacey and Talena's youth are touching and very moving.  The two ladies aren't related, but they are orphans who bonded together in order to survive, so they are very much sisters in every which way except biologically.

Lacey sticks by Talena, despite Talena having just destroyed Lacey's car in the very first page of the very first book, and also Talena  often not seeming to even be grateful for when Lacey comes to her aid.  Talena often annoys and even angers Lacey, but she'll still run to her side, as she did one time when Lacey lost her turtle in a lake, and Talena was on the verge of tears, and Lacey flung a blanket around her and doted on her much like a mother.  Back when they were kids, Lacey once came to fight off bullies who were tormenting Talena, and they've stuck with each other ever since.  In a future issue, I'd love to see more of their backstory, with a better explanation as to why Lacey cares so much for Talena, even when there are times she wants to smack her. This is why I described their relationship as a sisterhood, although I would still like the backstory.

In fact, as he did with Plan B as a fill-in between story arcs, perhaps Stuart can dedicate one issue to back stories of each of the ladies?  I'm not at all telling him what to write, I'm simply suggesting what I'd like to see.  For example, a short story of Rasta and her brothers, and also what drove Mussk to be the chain smoker and drinker that she is.  Just bad habits, or is she using these habits to shield herself from something that she doesn't want to face?  One of the things I enjoy about the stories is that the ladies are both simple and easy to understand as to why they do what they do on the surface, and yet something about how they're written suggests that there's more story to tell for each of them.  I'm speaking here mainly as a comic nerd who loves her some comic lore, and I feel that each of the ladies has more story to tell.  Or at least that's the vibe I'm getting as I read each new issue.

So in summary in regards to the books themselves, The 4HFs is a great, fun, roller-coaster of a ride series that will probably make a fan out of you right off the bat, as it did me.  The main question for me to answer when I do these reviews is this: Do I want to know "What happens next?"  To me, answering that question is the make-or-break of a given comic's worth as a comic, because, after reading it, if I don't have that desire to know "what happens next?" - if I don't come away with that feeling of anticipation for the next issue, that I will probably die before the next one comes out - then that comic still has things to work out. That is NOT a problem for The 4HFs!  I DEFINITELY want to know "what happens next", and I am already ready for #8 to come out!  WHOOHOO!!  :-D

Normally at this point, this is where I end the review, but I have a little more to tell here, and this is in regards to Stuart Black himself.   Stuart is part of the same FB group for independent comic creators that the boss and I are in that's called Creators United.  Ever since joining up, Stuart has been very eager to join up in group exercises, and has often contributed artworks of other creator's characters, and - as shown in 4HFs #7, he's even offered to have cameos of other creator's characters in his book!  How cool is that? On top of that Stuart has a maniacal work ethic, having done all seven (plus Plan B!) of his issues in an insanely short span of time.

You'd think that these books would look or feel rushed, but IMHO, they're all quality works.  Yes, it's an insanely short time span, but still, he questions and fusses over how to illustrate his scenes and paces his stories like any other creator.  I'm simply amazed at his output.  To call him a "dedicated comic creator" isn't enough, he's more like "a comic creator's comic creator".  He's also an excellent lesson on what a little dedication to the dream and skill of being an independent comic creator can do, especially in our day and age in which indies have access to all sorts of avenues for self-publishing.  Stuart is definitely a child of our modern age of comic creation.  Well done, Stuart!  Keep up the awesome work!  By the way, I hope The Mighty One didn't cause any problems while she was in Australia...   :-P

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