Christopher Chance has 11 days to live. Having accidentally imbibed poison meant for Lex Luthor, the Human Target is determined to solve the homicide before he signs off. Superhero medic Dr Mid-Nite has pinpointed the poison in his system as carrying extradimensional radiation linked to the ‘Bwah-Ha-Ha’ Justice League… was a rogue member trying to kill Luthor?
The day after Chance gets his death sentence, who should call at his office but a member of that very League iteration. Ice, goddess of the frozen north. Except she’s not. Over a long day, Chance and Ice swap stories – she shares a lot more, though it could simply be that her life has been a lot more convoluted.
And that’s basically all this issue has in terms of set-up. But if the devil is in the detail, we’re talking Tom Ellis-level Lucifer. Because writer Tom King and artist Greg Smallwood provide 28 pages of seductive story, with Ice in the role of Hitchcock blonde.
There’s chemistry between our leads, with the usually naive Ice very aware of her allure, and Chance cognisant of the danger she poses if he unmasks her as a hero turned assassin.
Then again, if he’s guaranteed to die anyway…
The Human Target #1 was a terrific comic. This is even better, as the script builds on established continuity without getting bogged down in it. King’s narration is sublime, with Chance – a bodyguard by trade – perfectly pitched as the doomed private eye figure. He’s easy to root for.
As seen through Chance’s filter, Ice gains a sheen of mystery even as she seems so open about her past. Can she be trusted? She puts another Leaguer firmly in the frame as Luthor’s likely nemesis, but if Ice wanted to ice Lex, well, she would, wouldn’t she?
Ice’s longtime paramour, Guy Gardner, has a flashback cameo, and is seriously impressive.
Smallwood’s art puts the Film Noir genre in a Technicolor – nay, tutti frutti! – light. There’s a Madison Avenue feel to the linework, an attractive slickness, but Smallwood’s colours elevate the visuals even further, as the dominant naturalism clashes – in a positive sense – with carefully considered colour blocks that slice across the frames. Clever choices like the twinkle and swirl when Ice uses her powers, which is surely accompanied by the giggle of Tinker Bell, make the familiar feel magical.
Laying down King’s words, Clayton Cowles’ lettering choices are understated, yet artful.
Smallwood’s front cover is a delight, with Ice smouldering like Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha – and you better believe Christopher Chance is Bewitched. As for the back cover, it’s that pin-up gal from last time, with another day ticked off on the calendar. Simple, and effective.
Edited by Ben Meares and Ben Abernathy, the Human Target is a comic book that’s as smart as it is gorgeous. And that’s saying something.