Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Human Target #8, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated May 2004. Enjoy!
Peter Milligan’s Human Target is a fine comic book (it’s true!), and while this first page of the eighth issue of the ongoing series isn’t grab-you-by-the-throat awesome, it still does its job, and that’s what we want, right? Milligan gives us a narrator who’s looking out his window holding his gun. The man is trying to decide if the man he’s looking at through the rifle scope is James Malloy, who’s back in town. We learn that they’re in Middle Rock, which apparently isn’t a very big town. The narrator doesn’t think the guy actually looks like Malloy (and he doesn’t, as we find out soon enough), but he has a “swagger” that gives him away. He’s waiting for “Malloy” to make his move, and then he – the narrator – will kill “Malloy.” Milligan does a nice job in the first five panels giving us a man who’s obviously a bit unhinged (he identifies the guy by his swagger?) but also someone who’s terrified of this “Malloy” and is trying to figure out what to do about it. Then, of course, we switch narrators (presumably Lee Loughridge, who colored this, is responsible for the change in colors in the caption boxes, even though it’s obvious that we’ve switched) and learn that the man is not, in fact, James Malloy, but Christopher Chance. Milligan lays on the irony just a bit too much – we’ve just seen that something is definitely going to happen in Middle Rock, whether Chance wants it or not – but it does sound like something someone would think about a small town in middle America, so it shouldn’t bother us too much. We might not know who Christopher Chance is if this is the first issue we’re picking up, but based on the fact that this man is the center of attention on the entire page, it’s probably not too hard to figure out.
As for Cliff Chiang … well, he can draw a comics page, can’t he? He lays this page out very well, with everything moving our eye from left to right within the panels. In the first one, the rifle points toward the right. Christopher is walking to the right in Panel 2, and the man is looking off to the right in Panel 3 and 4. Even in Panel 5, where the man is looking to the left, Chiang designs the page so that the sweep of the curtains and the man’s hand in the lower right lead us that way. Finally, the curve of the street and the way Chance is beginning to take off his jacket in Panel 6 (that’s what he’s doing) is oriented toward the right, so that our eyes easily move from the caption boxes on the left to the one taking us to Page 2. Chiang and Loughridge do a nice job getting rid of some of the holding lines in the background, which helps make the night feel more … nocturnal, I guess, and we can see that the artists keep the man holding the rifle in suffocating blackness, especially in Panel 4, where the darkness threatens to swallow him. Chance’s face is in shadow both times we see him, implying his secret life, while the man in the room, despite the encroaching darkness, is lit by the moon so that he doesn’t quite succumb. The artists do a nice job with a lot of implication on this page, allowing Milligan to stick to a more naturalistic writing style.
This is just a good page put together by people who know how to do comics. I always love to see that!
Next: I was getting worried that I wouldn’t randomly pick this artist, but here he is. And damn, is this page impressive! Check out some more impressive comics in the archives!
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