Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Man, it’s been an exhausting day. What better to lift up my mood than writing about a great character who starred in one of my favorite comic series of the 21st century? (Where can I find an archive like that?)
311. Human Target
The only reason I glossed over this one in yesterday’s post is because I knew I’d get back to it today. Fear not, Target fans!
No, the Human Target is not an anthropomorphic chain of department stores. He’s really Christopher Chance, the mercenary master of disguise! With his terrific technology and excellent skills at mimicry of voices and body language, Christopher Chance can become anyone– for a price.
DC has several master-of-disguise characters, strangely enough (including the Unknown Soldier), but I’d have to say the Human Target is my favorite. Created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino, Christopher Chance made his living in back-up strips throughout Action Comics and a few other titles, putting himself in the place of those in danger in order to deal with the threat head-on.
The character never really hit it big, even with his own short-lived TV series headlined by Rick Springfield. Did anyone ever see that? Was it any good at all? I’m curious.
Finally, however, Christopher Chance got his due when Peter Milligan started writing him, starting with a four-issue mini-series for Vertigo with art by the late great Edvin Biukovic. Milligan presented Chance as a man so caught up in the identities of the people he’s pretending to be that he tends to forget who he is. He literally becomes the person. Also in this mini, we meet Tom McFadden, Chance’s protÃ©gÃ©, who is dangerously close to becoming as unhinged as Chance himself. It’s a terrific mini. Milligan followed it up with a standalone graphic novel, Final Cut, that brought Chance into another world of disguise and deception– Hollywood. It was also pretty darn good, and drawn this time by Javier Pulido.
The first two projects must have been successful, because an ongoing series was quickly launched, once again written by Milligan, and featuring art from Pulido, Cliff Chiang, and even Cameron Stewart. (I’ve borrowed some images of Chiang and Stewart’s work from SplashPageArt– if you like what you see, click through and buy a page!) I loved this series– it was my favorite ongoing running at the time, and the first issue was the best single issue of 2003.
As I said yesterday, Milligan loves themes of identity, and Human Target lets him tackle it from all different angles. Not only is Christopher Chance’s identity fractured, but he’s constantly encountering or impersonating characters who are having problems with identity themselves, including such men as a priest with a dark secret, a man who faked his death on 9-11, a member of the Weathermen Underground, and a crazy evangelist. Milligan loaded it with social commentary and political intrigue, as well; these kinda things helped non-comics-reading friends of mine to enjoy it, too. It was one of the best series Vertigo had published in ages, but it folded after 21 issues. There are two trades available, but they only collect the first ten issues! Bah.
I’d love to see Milligan return to Human Target at some point in the future. That time may never come, but I’m sure Christopher Chance will surface again. The man of infinite faces has a great premise that’s given us a lot of good stories, and will hopefully give us lots more.
Check out Human Target on Thrilling Detective.
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