The Human Target #2 review

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.

12 thoughts on “The Human Target #2 review

  1. This is a surprisingly great read. I didn’t think I’d say that about aTom King book because I haven’t been a fan of much that he’s written in the last few years.
    But this is lovely. A noir detective story set in the DCU that sets aside all of King’s usual dour and depressing themes and annoying writers tics and instead focuses on telling a cool mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect that’s going to be the format… and I’d kinda prefer to see something different. We’ve seen that kind of story told before. I worry that in the end, it’s going to be relying too much on structure at the expense of the story. And goodness knows, King loves the structure of storytelling.
        But… I’m enjoying the look at the bwah ha ha League through the lens of someone who is most definitely not that.

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  2. I enjoy your reviews and respect your writing and opinions tons. That said, not even a glowing review will ever get me to read another Tom King scripted book. Not even your glowing praise can get me past his past work. Only Mister Miracle and Vision has ever left me feeling anything remotely like positive towards the man’s output.

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  3. Was a bit surprised at the Ice revelation, forgot Fire & Ice had been given the standard sad & murdery origin retcon treatment over the past couple of decades.

    But it is a lovely cover. Any idea who the ‘apologies to Darcy’ signature refers to?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been wondering what this cover is based on since I saw it, and so far have come up empty. My first thoughts were a poster for Bell Book & Candle, or an Audrey Hepburn movie, but so far I haven’t been able to turn anything up. And the name “Darcy” is making it very hard to google, simply due to the preponderance of Pride & Prejudice movies and fan art, etc.

    Great issue, though! I remain convinced that Luthor was not the intended victim, but Chance was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found out that D’arcy was the Coca-Cola advertising agency from 1906 on through the decades, so been Googling images like mad. I’ve found several that have a similar vibe, but not a direct homage. Yet…

      Love Bell, Book and Candle! I think you may be onto something. Check out the second IMDB image for Kim Novak from that film. And Chance certainly has James Stewart eyes. And his ear… I’ll post a couple of pics to your Twitter feed.

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  5. You found some great pics.. but like you, I’m dying to find out the D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles image that inspired this cover. I feel certain what’s being homaged is the composition, not just the people involved.

    Liked by 1 person

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