Christopher Chance was a soldier-of-fortune, a man who would disguise himself as someone marked for death then step in front of a bullet, betting his life that his skills and mind were sharp enough not only to save his life but the life of the person that had hired him as well. People called him the Human Target, and the nickname stuck. However, no one could ever guess at the huge price Chance had to pay to become someone else. The Human Target didn't just change his looks when he assumed an identity; he also changed his thoughts and feelings, becoming the person he was trying to protect. Now, Chance is semi-retired and he has a young protégé named Tom McFadden stepping into his shoes. Only Tom is struggling with the whole Human Target gig too-struggling so much that he sometimes forgets who he is and can't remember how to be who he really is. Earl James is a militant black preacher drawing a line in the sand against the local drug dealers, headed up by Dee Noyz. Emerald is an assassin-for-hire, every bit as dedicated and driven as Christopher Chance, and she's been contracted to kill the Human Target. Christopher Chance is caught in the middle of a vicious crossfire: he wants to save himself and Tom McFadden, who feels he must save Earl James. At the same time, Chance has to stay out of the line of fire from Emerald and Dee Noyz. Chance is working against the clock. How can he find the man he trained-someone who can be anyone?
Christopher Chance, the Human Target was first created back in the 1970s by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino as a series of eight-page and ten-page backup features in ACTION COMICS, DETECTIVE COMICS, and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Rick Springfield portrayed Chance in a seven-episode television series in the 1990s. Peter Milligan brought Chance back to life for the cutting-edge Vertigo line at DC Comics. Milligan has also written HUMAN TARGET: FINAL CUT, the X-Force monthly comics series, ENIGMA, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CYCLOPS AN PHOENIX, CATWOMAN DEFIANT, and SKIN. Edvin Biukovic, the artist on the graphic novel, passed away but left a body of work as his legacy that includes: STAR WARS-THE LAST COMMAND, STAR WARS: X-WING ROGUE SQUADRON THE PHANTOM AFFAIR, GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS.
HUMAN TARGET is a graphic novel that satisfies on numerous levels. For old-time nostalgia fans, the reappearance of Christopher Chance-though in a very different and dark incarnation-is a welcome marriage between the old and the new. The original idea of someone willing to risk his life by being someone else is simple yet fascinating, and all the storytelling is very human. Milligan succeeds brilliantly in bringing that humanness to his story. The fact that every character in this book is driven by needs and emotions that erupt from the core of his or her being is powerful. All of the characters are at once strong and complete, but each one carries his or her faults and the seeds of his or her destruction. The secondary characters in the story-McFadden's wife, Earl James' wife, Emerald's husband, Dee Noyz's old girlfriend-all contributed to the bullet-slick pacing and the emotional implosions that come at the climax. Biukovic's art is phenomenal, an array of lights and darks and fiery colors that dropkick images and action from the pages. The bullet-riddled cross left after the attack in the church and Dee Noyz's attempt to keep Earl James from getting shot by an assassin are stark and moving. Biukovic was as at home with penciling action scenes as he was in penciling simple scenes such as when Becky McFadden was talking with Chance and hanging out her laundry. The plot is convoluted and takes close reading, but is a gem of suspense and building anticipation.
Although Milligan somewhat covered Christopher Chance's background, a little more was needed. Where did Christopher Chance come from? Why did he get into the line of work that he did? Where did he get his training in martial arts and in disguise? Where did he find Tom McFadden? How did he train McFadden? Although these missing pieces don't spoil the overall story, their presence would have been welcome.
Fans of Greg Rucka, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker will want to add HUMAN TARGET to their reading list. Also, anyone interested in seeing what Vertigo Comics is capable of producing in the way of crime fiction for the mature reader will find no better introduction than this graphic novel.