Review: THE HUMAN TARGET #5
[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 #5: Christopher Chance, a.k.a. the Human Target, will be dead in a few days, but nothing will stop him from solving his own murder. His investigation into the JLI intensifies, and he sets his sights on the Martian Manhunter…but what piece does J’onn J’onzz add to the puzzle?
In The Human Target #5, Christopher Chance’s search for the person who poisoned him has led to the Martian Manhunter. This encounter is rather different from the previous ones. The main conflict between J’onn and Chance happens in a split second on the mental plane.
This is illustrated by an image frequently referenced in the story. When Chance asks how long a mental attack would take, the woman giving him mental training responds:
Well. Let’s say you and I were at dinner, and I asked you to pass the salt. Before I’d get the salt, I’d get you.
Of course, the story begins with J’onn asking Chance to pass the salt while dining with him and Ice. Of course, this seems innocuous at first, but as the reader gets further into the story, they realize this was the start of J’onn and Chance’s telepathic struggle.
The story reveals some of the Human Target’s background story. Much of it is faithful to the origin given to the character by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino in the original pre-Crisis comics. But King adds a new wrinkle. Part of Chance’s training included training against telepathic attacks by a telepath.
Interestingly, these lessons come from a native of Titan named Emra. I don’t think this is supposed to be a time-displaced Saturn Girl. Although the name is similar to Imra, Emra is different, as is her hair color. Emra might be an ancestor of Saturn Girl, or it could just be that their similar names reflect the naming conventions of Titan. It does raise the question though whether or not an undiscovered colony of telepaths currently exists on Titan in the DCU. Or perhaps Emra is also from a future time.
The lessons she gives Chance are fascinating. She teaches him that being overprotective of one’s deepest, darkest secret leaves them open to losing all their secrets. But her most important lesson is that is by not offering the resistance, one can turn a telepathic attack back on the attacker. She tells him:
Without resistance… the attacker, who is charging expecting walls, falls into the mind. Loses control. Then, while they stumble forward, overwhelmed by all you are giving them, the small secrets and the big ones… they leave themselves vulnerable. You can start taking. It’s another strategy. They get all of you, but you get all of them.
This is the strategy that Chance employs on J’onn while he passes the salt shaker across the table. He lets J’onn have all his secrets, but at the same time gets the information he wants from J’onn. He also gets some other surprising information from the Martian Manhunter. J’onn had supplied money to Booster at the behest of Fire, giving her access to the poison meant for Lex Luthor. Combining this with the fact that Luthor had killed Ice, this makes Fire now the most likely suspect.
Of course, we’re not even halfway through this series yet, so it doesn’t seem likely that Chance would have zeroed in on the actual culprit yet. So, I doubt it’s Fire. But it does mean that investigating her is the next step in the investigation. But how will Ice take it when Chance’s suspicions become directed at her best friend?
Once again, Greg Smallwood’s art and colors are amazing. This is one of the most visually appealing titles I have ever read. I especially like how he blends together J’onn’s and Chance’s memories in some sequence. For example, a single picture is divided into four panels. In the top two, it’s clearly Chance and Ice in bed together, but the lower right quarter replaces them with Fire and J’onn. Then, the lower-left image shows Fire and Chance. Is this a result of J’onn and Chance’s memories bleeding together? Or is this an actual event from Chance’s past? Is this a hint that Fire and Chance have a past connection that was previously unrevealed?
I can’t help but think that the sexual relationship between Fire and Martian Manhunter seems somewhat out of character for both of them. Fire seems to be using sex to manipulate J’onn which seems very much unlike the Fire we know from Justice League International. Well, she is somewhat less innocent than Ice was portrayed as, she still never seemed that wanton or ruthless. And J’onn’s crying afterward is shockingly unlike the character we’ve read about in the main DCU. J’onn has never been this weak and self-pitying.
However, as a Black Label book, this story probably isn’t meant to take place in the canon DCU, so I can give King a pass on this. And while it is very disconcerting, it does fit in well with the story King is telling. It stands to reason that if these characters were behaving this way, this would indeed be J’onn’s deepest, most shameful secret. So, I can accept this within this story, but it clearly marks King’s story as outside of DC canon. And the idea that J’onn would be attracted to someone who embodies his biggest weakness is an intriguing one.
The Human Target #5 is a unique issue of this series, but in a way that makes perfect sense within the terms of the story. A telepathic battle is rather tricky to convey properly in a visual medium, but Tom King and Greg Smallwood have pulled it off beautifully. If the rest of this series maintains the quality evident in the first few issues, The Human Target will surely prove to be another classic Tom King title.