Human Target #2

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Javier Pulido
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

When Peter Milligan and Edvin Biukovic brought The Human Target back as a mini-series back in 1999, Milligan’s take on a man addicted to professional impersonations took the comic world by storm. After the original mini-series and a graphic novel also by Milligan, The Human Target is back once more under Milligan’s guidance, this time as an ongoing series. In an era where hidden faces are feared instead of creating fascination, though, will The Human Target still have a place to fit in?

John Matthews worked for a corrupt business in New York, shredding all traces of financial impropriety behind him on the orders of his employer. Then the World Trade Center was destroyed in a terrorist attack, and Matthews took advantage of the destruction of his office to let the world think he was dead, leaving his wife and child to collect the insurance. Now he’s found himself drawn back to New York and the corrupt business that he used to work for, but he may have gotten in over his head. Then a meeting with Christopher Chance gives him a chance to make it through the danger in one piece… by letting Chance pretend to be him. But do we want Matthews to really succeed?

Milligan has never been one to tell an “easy” story, and the new issue of The Human Target is no exception. Right off the bat, Milligan doesn’t pull any punches; John Matthews did less than ethical things both at work, and then at home. He’s an interesting person for Christopher Chance to try and “become”, because we’re not entirely sure that we want Matthews to walk away from the situation. Milligan shows hints of redemption for Matthews early on, then just as quickly shows Matthews’s darker side as once more his greed keeps him from walking a path of righteousness. Just as importantly, Milligan lets Chance recognize the faults of the person that he’s impersonating; this is a very deliberate character sketch of a deeply faulted person. The story itself starts off pretty slowly, but rapidly picks up speed as all the pieces start falling into place; by the end of the issue, this was The Human Target that Milligan had taught me to know and love.

Javier Pulido first tackled The Human Target in his and Milligan’s Final Cut graphic novel, and I’m glad that he’s back for more. Pulido’s opening pages of Matthews stumbling out of a sea of white are gorgeously drawn, using negative space for maximum impact, followed by a two-panel shot of Matthews’s life then and now. Seeing such big splashes are rare in Human Target, though. Pulido’s able to really pack the panels onto a page without it ever feeling cramped; we’re talking about a book where if a page doesn’t have at least six panels, it’s positively bare compared to the rest of the book. With tight zoom-ins on people’s eyes, or hands pulling back the hammer of a gun, Pulido is a master of using what to others would be a small amount of space. With Pulido, it feels positively huge.

The Human Target #2 is a really strong story—so much that I’m surprised they didn’t choose to make it the first issue. Regardless of its issue number, if you haven’t read any of Milligan’s stories about Christopher Chance before, this first half of “The Unshredded Man” story is well worth your while. And if you have ready any of Milligan’s earlier stories, well, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you to buy this book. You already know that The Human Target is better than any adrenaline rush you can make on your own.

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