The Human Target: A thriller about a man with a thousand faces

The Human Target by Peter MilliganThe Human Target by Peter Milligan (writer), Edvin Biukovic (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Robert Solanovic (letterer)

Christopher Chance is the Human Target. He is able to impersonate anybody, and he takes the place of those whose lives are in danger, often when there is a hitman pursuing them. He digs deep in his method acting to really become the person he impersonates. He is a master of disguise, but sometimes a human target can be too good at imitation, perhaps even forgetting at times that he is not the person imitated. For example, in this story, the Human Target, a white man, takes the place of a black minister who is trying to clean up his neighborhood, get drugs and drug lords out of the community. The minister has a wife and young child, and the impersonation lasts for over a month. After that long, the Human Target starts to believe he is really married to the wife and a father to the child. He will have serious problems coming back from this mission. However, there’s a twist to this basic plot summary, an excellent twist I cannot reveal.

We get plenty of action, and the story gears up as a mysterious man in a mask asks the Human Target to impersonate him. We seem him briefly at the beginning of the story before the tale of the minister, but he shows up again soon, removing his mask at a key moment to reveal that he is a person well-known to the Human Target. And that’s when the story takes a sharp turn: We end up with a confused assistant to Chance, who struggles to maintain his personal identity after taking too many jobs as a human target, having been expertly trained by Chance. Chance, himself, struggles psychologically, too, and we see him visiting his therapist to deal with his own problems as well as those of his assistant. Chance goes to visit his assistant’s angry wife, who wishes Chance had never gotten her husband into the profession to begin with. It’s a rich, complex story about people and therefore is more than just a quick action comic.

Women are central to this book. There is a deadly female assassin in this story, and her home life is also revealed, her husband not aware of her true profession. She, too, has a young child. So we have three families with young children, and parents caught up in violence and intrigue, of which the kids are unaware. This aspect of the comic really makes a nice change to the typical thriller genre, introducing kids into the mix. The minister’s wife is also important. The minister plays a large role in this story even after being impersonated by the Human Target. His past comes back to haunt him as the drug gang uses his indiscretions against him. And we get insight into his wife’s feelings, too. Not just the minister’s, and not just Chance’s. Women play a key role in this story throughout the book, and the comic shows the damage men do to women.

Great writing and masterful art make this a comic worth seeking out. Themes of identity and betrayal and redemption add depth. And along with the first-person narration of the women in addition to the men, there is plenty of witty dialogue to accompany the action sequences. This is a smart thriller, and I cannot give it less than the full five stars. If you have trouble finding this volume, it is collected in the more recent trade volume Human Target: Chance Meetings, which includes one other book-length story: The Final Cut, which I will review another time. There was also a short-lived TV show about this character, but I have heard mixed reviews. The book, however, is not to be missed. I highly recommend The Human Target.


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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