Despite the versatile nature of the DC Comics character, Christopher Chance hasn't appeared regularly in a comic series since Len Wein and Peter Johnson's 2010 Human Target. The hero returns to the DC Universe alongside Lex Luthor and the Justice League International in Eisner-winning writer Tom King and artist Greg Smallwood's Human Target series. The DC Black Label series' debut issue is a fun story that sets the stage for a fascinating mystery.
Human Target #1 begins when Christopher Chance takes a job protecting Lex Luthor. In his younger days, Chance would never be seen working with the villain, but he needs the money. After donning his Luthor disguise, things seem to go according to plan: a person tries to assassinate him and he helps capture the perpetrator. But when all is said and done, something has gone horribly wrong. The Human Target has been poisoned. So, he begins to investigate, hellbent on finding the responsible party.
King does an excellent job establishing Christopher Chance as a tired, world-weary version of his former self. King utilizes the character's history of being a hip super spy, which contributes to the hardboiled noir atmosphere of this first issue. While fans of King's work may find that this issue has a lot in common with the first issue of Rorschach, which also revolves around an assassination attempt at a public event, Human Target #1 is tonally unique. Despite Chance's more mature attitude, the story evokes a devil-may-care sense of fun. The stakes are definitely high, but King is quick to remind the reader that it is still fundamentally a story about fast cars and superheroes, which even ends by introducing the Justice League International.
Smallwood's artwork helps to establish the fast pace and fun tone of Human Target #1. His bright colors and deceptively simple designs are reminiscent of the stylized opening credits sequences of '70s spy films. Whether Chance is fighting would-be killers while disguised as Lex Luthor, or simply pouring himself a drink, Smallwood draws him with all the poise and charm of an action hero. His use of various textures makes it easy to linger on every page. Quick, rough lines are used to render shadows and backgrounds, only to be interrupted by clean, bright outlines which draw attention back to the characters. Smallwood draws attention to crucial moments of action by abandoning his panel structure during key confrontations, which helps control the pace of the comic and proves that he is a master of design.
Much of Human Target #1 seems to be devoted to exposition, but it is an entertaining start to a series that promises to be full of surprises. King's characterization of Christopher Chance is a fresh take on the character that still incorporates the best parts of the Human Target's personality. And, Smallwood's art is breathtaking. It has been a long time since Chance starred in his own series, and this first issue marks a triumphant and intriguing return.
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