Review: THE HUMAN TARGET #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Greg Smallwood
Colours: Greg Smallwood
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Human Target #1: Christopher Chance has made a living out of being a human target—a man hired to disguise himself as his client to invite would-be assassins to attempt his murder. He’s had a remarkable career until his latest case protecting Lex Luthor when things go sideways. An assassination attempt Chance didn’t see coming leaves him vulnerable and left trying to solve his own murder…as he has 12 days to discover just who in the DCU hated Luthor enough to want him dead.
The Human Target #1 is the first issue of Tom King’s latest 12-issue maxiseries under the DC Black Label banner. King has been rather successful with this format. And judging from this initial issue, this series will continue that trend.
Similar to King’s just-completed Rorschach, this is a murder mystery. And similar to that story, the detective solving the crime finds himself intimately involved in the crime. While I won’t spoil the ending of that series (seriously, check it out!), The Human Target has a similar twist to the murder, but this time, the detective, Christopher Chance, is also the victim.
Someone has poisoned Chance, and he finds himself with twelve days to find his murderer before the poison kills him. It’s not an original idea, but setting it in the middle of the DCU gives it an intriguing twist. Chance’s most recent employer, Lex Luthor, but Luthor appears to be the intended target. Could it be a double bluff?
However, the trail leads Christopher Chance to the Justice League – specifically, the Giffen-era Justice League International. Could one of the heroes have attempted to poison Luthor? Given that this is a Black Label story, it may or may not be canon, so that might not be all that implausible.
I especially like the beginning sequence. The story starts with Christopher Chance lying down on his hotel bed, waiting for death on the twelfth day. Then we see a series of brief teasing snippets from each preceding day as the sequence works its way back to Day 1.
The presence of the JLI is likely to mean that there will be a fair bit of humour to the story. Especially, since the lineup of the League includes Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and G’Nort. I’m sure that there will be plenty of drama and tragedy, but balancing this with lighter moments will probably benefit the story. It worked well for Mister Miracle, so hopefully it will here as well.
Speaking of Mister Miracle, this story appears to take place during the time Scott Free was in the League. I doubt that King will make any direct link between this and his earlier series, but I’d love to see a call-back or two. Also, I have to say I loved the guest-appearance of Doctor Mid-Nite, who provides Chance with medical assistance after his poisoning.
This time around King’s story is illustrated by Greg Smallwood. I haven’t encountered Smallwood’s art before, but I was blown away by his art. His style is brightly colourful, which is only appropriate for a title featuring the JLI. And all the characters look exactly as they were presented in 1988. And the Human Target himself looks exactly as he did in his 70s appearances. Smallwood is clearly showing respect for the source material.
I couldn’t detect any problems or reasons for concern in this first issue. The story is only just beginning, but nothing seems off, and Smallwood’s art is absolutely perfect.
The Human Target #1 as an auspicious start to Tom King’s latest Black Labe series. If King can keep up the momentum, this series could well be as much a masterpiece as Mister Miracle was. Even apart from the writing, the title is worth buying for Smallwood’s gorgeous art by itself.