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Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby – Day Eight

Here’s the next look at a beloved run (of someone) that did not make the Top 158 of the Top Comic Book Runs.

Enjoy!

Peter Milligan’s Human Target

Human Target #1-21

Peter Milligan had already written an excellent Human Target mini-series before he launched an ongoing featuring Christopher Chance, the man who will disguise himself as anyone so as to serve as, well, a human target for them. If they suspect assassination, he’ll step in and BE you until the assassins are stopped.

Of course, this being Peter Milligan, the stories were more complex than that – and boy, were they complex!

But the complexity was built around a great understanding for human emotions and the effects of what happens when you really truly “take over” someone else’s life.

Javier Pulido was the original artist, and he was very good, but then Cliff Chiang took over, and he was even better.

The series had crisp, impressive artwork and strong stories – it was a delightful series.

Here is why reader Eric had it high on his list…

Though I did not vote this series number one on my top ten list (as the proprietor of http://www.vicsage.com, I’d be remiss if I didn’t choose the O’Neil/Cowan run of the Question), this was the one pick of my list that I’d hoped would make the top 100, but suspected that others might not have enjoyed it as much as me. Honestly, part of me wanted to write this mini-appreciation just to see if anyone else voted for it at all.

I missed out on the original Human Target mini-series with the late Edvin Biukovic on art, and so my first introduction to Christopher Chance, the titular Human Target, was in the stand-alone “Final Cut” — a psychological thriller in the strictest sense of the word. While working against time to find a kidnapped child star, Chance falls so deeply into his roles — the serial-killing screenwriter Davey King and the perfect WASP husband, Frank White — that the already-strained boundaries of his own identity start to blur. Milligan’s tight story is brought to life by the gorgeous artwork of Javier Pulido — who mimics the style of Saul Bass in the trade dress — and the vibrant colors of Dave Stewart. Were “Final Cut” made into a film, critics would call it the next “Usual Suspects” or “Memento,” and they would be wrong — this hypothetical film would be better.

“Final Cut” segued into a regular Vertigo series that continued Chance’s adventures as a body-double-for-hire for 21 issues, the first five issues with art by Pulido, and the remainder by equally adept artist Cliff Chiang. Chance is not the only character to experience an identity crisis in these issues, as we meet a corporate scapegoat who is able to fake his death in the tragedy of Sept. 11th, a baseball player who’s “lost a step” and turns to drugs and then Chance for help, a member of a 60s radical group who finds himself to not be so radical anymore, and, in the end, Chance’s own crazed ex-assistant, who wants Chance’s identity for his own.

Throughout the series, Milligan uses subject matter that others might advertise as, “Ripped from the headlines,” but unlike when similar timely material is used in television police procedurals, there seems to be a poignancy and a deeper intention here. In Human Target, Milligan and his artistic cohorts are crafting an examination of American identity (the second trade collection is called “Living in Amerika”) after Sept. 11th that at times seems quite potent. This examination never feels complete, but one wonders what Milligan would have been capable of had the series not met its demise after barely 20 issues.

Thanks, Eric!

17 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 30, 2008 at 3:27 am

I remember reading the mini-series, but not the regular series.
Maybe I should.

Managed to track down the remaining issues outside of the trades last weekend and I’m just on the last arc now, it’s definitely a great read.

This is what I love about this feature, hearing about a title that I never checked out. I am defintely interested in reading this now.

Yes, the Top Comic Book Runs feature has been excellent and it has certainly made me think about reading some series’ I would never have considered before.
I have never heard much about Pete Milligan’s Human Target but I will definitely try to check it out. Is it out in trade?
I think Milligan can be a great writer but for every Skreemer (my favourite mini-series EVER) there is an Infinity Inc (yuk!). I am currently reading The Programme and so far it has been excellent, cant wait to see how it ends! Human Target does seem like the sort of thing he would do well.

Excellent feature, Brian. As was said above, sometimes it’ll turn someone on to a title they’d never heard of before. Looking forward to hearing about some book, or books even, that I may have previously overlooked. Cheers.

I hadn’t thought about the omission of Human Target at the time, but, in retrospect, it’s really quite amazing that it didn’t figure in the Top 100. A great series and an even better prequel mini.

choirsoftheeye

May 30, 2008 at 6:25 am

Milligan is a great writer when he’s on…

How many points did this one get?

Still a great feature!

The original mini with Biukovic is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Human-Target-Peter-Milligan/dp/1563896931

The stand-alone Final Cut is here:
http://www.amazon.com/Human-Target-Peter-Milligan/dp/1563896931

The first five issues are collected here:
http://www.amazon.com/Human-Target-Strike-Zones/dp/1401202098/

And issues six through ten are here:
http://www.amazon.com/Human-Target-Living-Amerika/dp/1401204198/

The rest have yet to be collected, as far as I know.

Thanks for running mine, Brian!

Ahh, yes. This was my favorite comic back when it was coming out; Milligan’s recurring theme of identity was at its strongest and utilized wonderfully in some great stories.

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while.

Human Target almost made the Top 158 – I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think it was something like 40-ish points.

Joe Gualtieri

May 30, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Eh, I always thought Milligan’s Human Target on-going was overrated. Now the mini, that was a work of staggering genius. Lots of writers and artists try to create the equivilent of a John Woo flick on paper, Millligan and Biukovic succeeded in spades. On top of that was an ambigious story about the nature of identity that’s never cleany resolved. Final Cut exists, in part, as a bridge between the mini and on-going tying up and removing that beautiful, wonderful ambiguity from the mini because there was no way to continue the story without doing so.

I liked the ongoing, but yeah, the mini-series was a ton better. It was note perfect.

ops, Milligan, and, yay, great Milligan. This was a decent book. Especially issue 11, my fave issue.

Like Enigma, Shade the Changing Man, Animal Man, even X-Statix, recently The Programme, this great book is overrated.

Milligan is the best writer, when he wants, when we want.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 1, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I liked the ongoing, but yeah, the mini-series was a ton better. It was note perfect.

The mini was excellent, the OGN alright, but I tihnk the ongoing was as good as the mini, at times.
Some of the stories weren’t as good, but some of the shorter stories held their own – I think it’s amazing some of the stories Milligan got from the concept.

i have to echo the sentiment that the miniseries was much better, but the ongoing was nothing to sniff at either… this is one series i keep praying makes a comeback (or becomes an HBO series).

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