Review: The Human Target #4

by Derek McNeil
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The Human Target #4 - DC Comics News

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Writer: Tom King

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Colors: Greg Smallwood

Letters: Clayton Cowles

Reviewed By: Derek McNeil


The Human Target #4: With eight days left to solve his own murder, Christopher Chance tracks down his next suspect. His murderer couldn’t be Blue Beetle…could it?


Christopher Chance’s investigation into his own murder continues in The Human Target #4. Chance’s prime suspects are the members of the Giffen-era Justice League International. And so far, each issue focuses on an investigation of a particular member of that team. In this issue, Chance sets his sights on Ted Kord, a.k.a. the Blue Beetle.

Actually, he focuses on two members of the JLI. With each issue, Chance’s suspicion of Ice grows deeper. However, he also can’t help but be drawn romantically to Tora. Clearly, she is the femme fatale of this detective story. But is she the killer? Or are Chance’s suspicions a red herring?

I find it interesting that Ice’s theoretical motive for the murder reflects Chance’s own situation. If Tora did indeed attempt to poison Lex Luthor, then she would have been doing so to avenger her own murder. So, it’s somewhat ironic for the crime to be investigated by a detective trying to solve his own murder.

But is Ted Kord the guilty party? At first, it seems that Ted Kord isn’t doing much to defend his own innocence. Being the brilliant mind he is, he does a full analysis of the crime and his own possible motives. This leads him to admit that he had reason to kill Luthor and the ability to carry it out – that is means and motive. He also freely admits that any alibi he might give could be easily faked.

But it’s this complete openness that convinces Chance that Beetle is innocent. Ted’s ultimate argument for his own innocence boils down to this statement: “My whole excuse for not killing Luthor is that I think it’s wrong, that I’m drawing some big line in the sand there”.

The Human Target #4 - DC Comics News

Positives Cont.

And Chance comes to realize that Ted is earnest in this assertion. The Human Target’s ultimate verdict on Ted Kord is: “You’re a decent person, Ted. There aren’t too many decent people around anymore. It’s something to be appreciated”.

The way Ted Kord is shown in The Human Target #4 is a stark contrast to how he is usually depicted as a member of the JLI. King has shrewdly written his story so that Chance meets Ted separately from Booster. When the two are together, Booster’s immaturity and buffoonish personality tend to overpower Ted’s own sharp intelligence, bringing Ted down to Booster’s level. They have a strong bond of friendship, but as a pair, they tend to be the team’s comic relief.

But the Ted we see here is a brilliant inventor, successful CEO, and capable crimefighter. While this is an integral part of his character. This side of his character was unfortunately downplayed during his time in the Justice League. I’m glad that King chose to take a more serious approach to the character.

Often in my reviews, I tend to focus on the writing more than the art. This is because I know enough about writing to be able to articulate what I feel the author did right or wrong in a story. However, I often find it difficult to say why I liked or disliked it. But I have to declare that I absolutely love Greg Smallwood’s work on The Human Target.

While his work on the series overall has been stellar, The Human Target #4 is especially worthy. I love Smallwood’s unique artistic style and bright colors. Clayton Cowles also deserves a special mention for his contribution as the issue’s letterer. I just love the retro vibe of the cover, with the Silver-Age style fight effects. They brought to mind the “Pow” and Splat!” effects from the 1966 Batman TV series. And the credits splash page was another nice odd to Silver Age comics.


At first, I thought that King had the characterization of Ted all wrong. But I soon realized that this was because I was expecting him to act like typically did in the Giffen-era JLI. Other readers might fall into this same trap. Thus, I urge readers to keep in mind that while King’s story does capture some of the humor that was the hallmark of Giffen’s League, this story is taking a somewhat more serious approach than Giffen’s did, but if you are missing the humor, I suspect there will be plenty of that when Christopher Chance meets G’nort.

The Human Target #4 - DC Comics News


Tom King’s work for DC has been somewhat polarizing among comic fans. But some of his series are indisputably fantastic. Mister Miracle, Omega Men, and Rorschach will undoubtedly be recognized as classics. And so far, The Human Target is on course to becoming another classic story.


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