Plus Man and Hank are back in the third installment of Ben Sears' Double+ series, The Ideal Copy. This time, though, they’re blacklisted from treasure hunting and decide to find a new form of employment. When the opportunity to work for a catering business comes up, the two are skeptical that it seems too easy, and they quickly learn that the host of their next party is a gang of counterfeiters. Which is, of course, the perfect mystery for Plus Man and Hank to solve.
In The Ideal Copy , Sears sticks to the series formula of a short, quippy escapade in which the stakes are generally low in terms of danger and real-world impact. Perhaps because the bulk of the adventure doesn’t feature Plus Man and Hank physically working together, this book in particular feels almost like a filler episode intended to focus less on action and more on character development, specifically for Plus Man. Plus Man not only gets the bulk of the screen time in the book, he also gets the bulk of the story. He’s the one who discovers that something is amiss with their party hosts and he’s the one who investigates it. He also has the added benefit of meeting Gene, a former treasure hunter and mentor of sorts. As a wrongfully convicted former convict, Gene has a lot of offer Plus Man in terms of advice and perspective, and this chance meeting puts a harsh spotlight on the fact that Plus Man is human and that Hank is a robot: Plus Man is growing and changing and learning, but Hank is stationary.
Hank definitely takes a back seat to Plus Man in terms of visual representation and overall purpose in this book. While Plus Man is off doing the dirty work, Sears depicts Hank as off in his own little subplot of comedically juggling plates full of tacos and acting as a sounding board for witty banter. Consequently, because Hank is off-screen for almost all the action in a book that bills him as half of a protagonistic duo, his entrance at the end to save Plus Man, Mickey, and Gene feels uncharacteristically stilted. He becomes a deus ex machina in his own book. Of course, Hank isn’t entirely useless in the book, consistently communicating with Plus Man via radio and working with an undercover federal agent, but he’s definitely not a main character by any means, and his absence isn’t unfelt.
The characters we do focus on, however, are great foils for Plus Man and fit into his world and antics very organically. Mickey, the elementary-school-aged girl that Plus Man randomly starts talking to, and Gene, a wrongfully imprisoned former convict, contribute to Plus Man’s antics with their own unique skill sets despite the seemingly major differences amongst the three of them. Sears visually acknowledges the hilarity and unlikelihood of this eclectic trio every time we see the three standing side-by-side in a panel. Mickey is barely in frame because she’s so short, and even Gene often has trouble fitting into the borders. Sears doesn’t bother to adjust the framing of each panel, though, to subconsciously remind readers that Mickey and Gene are simple passing through the Double+ series world and that their journey will be done after this book. Which, if you miss Hank, is sort of a comforting reminder.
All in all, fans looking for more of the trademarked Plus-Man-and-Hank antics we saw in the first two books in the series might find The Ideal Copy slightly lacking, but it’s a nice effort on Sears’ part to flesh out his human characters further and begin to hint at events further down the line in the series.