Summary: Christopher Chance has made a living off of making himself a human target. A master of disguise, he cunningly takes on the appearance and persona of men and women with contracts out against them. But when a routine assignment to impersonate an African-American minister with a bounty on his head goes south, Chance is soon caught between a lethal assassin and a vicious gang war. As this psychological thriller takes the reader through a roller coaster of unexpected twists and turns, it is soon discovered that it is Chance himself with price on his head and the only way he can survive is to solve this deadly mystery.
Human Target, by Peter Milligan and Edvin Biuković 8.25
I am in no way familiar with the original version of ‘The Human Target’, nor its main character. My only previous contact with the series was through an early-’90s TV pilot featuring Rick Springfield, a teen hero of mine. Even Springfield couldn’t entice me (or anyone else) into giving ‘The Human Target’ a fair chance; the show was a midsummer fill-in and failed to establish itself beyond its 7-episode run.
It’s only after a new-found love of all things Peter Milligan that I grabbed a hold of this book. If not for him, and his fantastic work on ‘The Programme’, I would likely have casually dismissed the title in the same way that I disregarded the 2010 TV series – of which I was aware, but couldn’t be bothered to explore. Little did I know that this was a comic book-related show. I just didn’t care.
But, under Milligan’s hand, I have learned to. He has created an exceptional miniseries, updating the original character and bringing us up to speed with his background. I found him crafty in providing exposition without making it sound as such. He managed to fill the blanks without hammering the readers over the head, and I suspect that he was also respectful of the old fans who enjoyed the previous iteration of the character.
I was quite taken with the character, even though the idea that a man could disguise and pass himself off as anyone he likes (despite a completely different morphology) and inhabit their lives in order to protect them, is absurd; it’s a cool concept, but it’s not realistic in the least when you think about it. Somehow, Milligan has made it acceptable – perhaps by forcing us to face the impossible right from the beginning, in the form of man who miraculously survived a direct gunshot to the head.
From that moment, we realize that we’re reading a “superhero” comic. And that makes it easy to suspend disbelief a little bit – in the same way that we can accept the events of ‘The Dark Knight‘ even though so much of it makes little sense.
Admittedly, I have no idea how faithful Milligan remained to Len Wein and Carmine Infantino’s original creation. But I am quite curious to find out now. I would love to see if the characters in his mini-series are the same and if the dynamics are similar. If so, it would be loads of fun to re-read them all (‘The Human Target’ was a short, secondary strip that found itself in Superman and Batman comic books – so it could easily be compiled).
The only thing that made this book not meet its potential is that it was released as a four-part set. This means that all the story had to fit within four 20+ page frameworks. By virtue of this, I found that there were a couple of shortcuts in the development – things that Milligan doesn’t seem prone to usually. It’s nothing major, but it is probably too brief by about 10 pages, in my estimation – and which account for the “low” rating.
I am pleased to report that, for once, the artwork of a Milligan book is quite excellent. Actually, I’d say that Edvin Biuković’s work is exactly as precise and detailed as any modern comic book should be. I’ve seen better, of course, but I have no complaints and it really was a pleasant sight. It might have only been improved with airbrushing or digital coloring; as far as comics go, the end result is quite nice.
So, overall, I was quite pleased with ‘The Human Target’. I am planning on reading the next instalment, and am actually curious to see the television episodes now – even the crummy 1991 ones. So that’s quite the achievement. Kudos to Milligan for shaping the book into a work that has style and substance at once. It’s not always easy to rework another’s creation and to update it for a new generation, but he hit his target dead on.