I don't write about comics much in this forum--though for ages I have had copies of Dan Clowes's Twentieth Century Eightball (Fantagraphics) and Mawil's Beach Safari (Top Shelf) sitting on my filing cabinet in a state of "to be reviewed," my intention being to hold the former up as the stagnation of cartoon nihilism that has plagued the independent industry for the last fifteen years, and the latter as the rare, much-needed example of a similarly minded cartoonist looking at the absurdity of life with a twinkle of joy. But really, I just said probably all I really was going to say, so why belabor it?
All seven issues have been written by Peter Milligan, one of my all-time favorite comic book writers. He has a self-reflexive humor that I adore, and once he has lead you through the clever minefield of his irony, he isn't afraid to drop an emotional bomb on you to follow it all up. This made his Shade the Changing Man series from the '90s one of the best ever, particularly for a mainstream monthly. Human Target could rival that. (He also was unafraid to sign my first issue of Shade back when I was a lowly fanboy with the line "Because we're young," inspired by my Suede T-shirt (so, likely 1993). That makes him eternally cool.) (We shold also note how shameful it is that DC has chosen to only collect the first arc of Shade so far. Booo!)
The first issues of Human Target were drawn by Javier Pulido, and now Cliff Chiang has taken over. Lee Loughridge colors, and to tremendous effect. He meets the stylized artists with an equally stylized palette.
The titular Human Target is Christopher Chance. He hires himself out to people in extreme situations, taking over their life through elaborate disguises and a highly developed ability at mimicry. He becomes them, taking them out of harm's way long enough to either solve the problem or be harmed himself--hence, being a target. However, years of doing this has played on Chance's head, and he has lost his sense of identity, who he really is. This makes Chance not unlike Shade, except whereas Shade wanted to find who he really was and used his madness to do so, Chance wants to leave his original self behind and uses his insanity as an excuse to do so.
The first couple of story arcs careened from a serious tale about a man who faked his own death during the 9/11 tragedy to a baseball player mixed up in a drug ring. The new arc, the three-part "Which Way The Wind Blows," looks at '60s radicals, leftovers of the Weather Underground (as well as a namecheck to Baader Meinhof, for those of you fascinated by Caucasian terrorist organizations). A hardcore member of the group, angry that his fellow revolutionaries betrayed the cause, is hunting down who he considers the worst offender--a man who is in hiding because he accidentally shot a cop. Only this buried man doesn't want to leave the mundane life of suburbia--though, the sick suburbia of The Ice Storm, with its extramarital affairs, etc., not some Leave It To Beaver paradise. Chance is being sent in to help the guy out, and I can't wait to see how Milligan approaches the subject of Chance adopting the identity of a man who has adopted another identity. How many layers will there be to the mask?
DC has announced the first collection for this series, Liars & Ghosts. Get it. Also pick up the preceding graphic novels that lead into it, Human Target (art by the late, incomparable Edvin Biukovic) and Human Target: Final Cut. (Wagging tongues will tell you that you need to read those novels to understand where the new series picks up, but those people are full of shit. If you have a brain, you'll figure out what is going on. You can even start with #7. Remember when we used to use our brains to enjoy art? I know when I was a kid you bought whatever issue of a comic was available and you dealt with it; but we were smarter then. We didn't have the internet.)
(On that parenthetical note, also beware of the people who say something like, "Oh, the first issue was all set-up," or "The first 40 minutes was all exposition." That particular charge I've heard leveled at the debut episode of HBO's excellent western series, Deadwood, and it's horseshit, cowboy. Anyone you hear saying that is someone who thinks they are smarter than they are. It's the one tiny thing they've learned about stories, and it's a clear signal they don't know much more. Except maybe, "It has no third act." In other words, Deadwood is dead good.)
"You want some action rather than exposition? How about I shoot you? Is that action enough?"
Current Soundtrack: Muse, Origin of Symmetry; Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Sings Greatest Palace Music