THE HUMAN TARGET: FINAL CUT
...is the original hardcover graphic novel follow-up to the HUMAN TARGET mini-series reviewed here just a few weeks ago. Peter Milligan is back to write it, with Javier Pulido (ROBIN: YEAR ONE) on art duties.
In this 92-page story, we follow Christopher Chance into Tinsel Town and the fake world that is Hollywood. Usually, stories about writers, movies, or comics that take place in movies or comics are self-referential, indulgent tripe. It's easy for a writer to write about what he knows. Take a look at any number of TV series set in television studios -- most of which fail -- or motion pictures which feature actors playing actors. It usually comes off as lazy.
In FINAL CUT, however, the use of Hollywood makes sense. Chance is the ultimate actor, assuming the physical and emotional persona of the person he's been hired to replace. He does so for days, weeks, or months at a time, depending on the job. His problem becomes one of an identity crisis. When Chance spends so much time as other people, what can he remember about himself? And what happens when he enjoys the life of the person he's replaced more than his own life? It's the ultimate acting gig, and setting such a story in Hollywood helps to further dramatize that by placing Chance in the company of other people who work in that kind of business.
Like in the previous mini-series, Milligan uses Chance's thoughts against him in a dizzying fashion. As Chance gets further and further lost in his own act, his ability to differentiate himself from his 'character', as well as other 'characters' he's played, grows diminished. That shows up in the narration, the dialogue, and the actions of the characters. It's a good sign of a story which is influenced by the character's motives, and not one in which the character serves the purpose of the plot. A book like this needs to be thought out this well to work. It also elevates it above a silly action movie contrivance and into the cerebral and more mature world of a Vertigo comic.
The story is one of a kidnapped teenager who Chance is hired to find before the abductor does something awful. The events that unfold turn Chance's perception of the case as well as himself inside out. It's bad enough when you're caught in a noir story filled with twists and turns. Imagine doing all of that while having confusion about who you are. Milligan wraps up everything very neatly by the end, throwing in lots of twists, betrayals, and suspenseful moments along the way. It's a great little mystery made only more inventive and interesting by the lead character's mental skittishness.
Javier Pulido's art is as sharp and clear as ever. I couldn't rave enough about it in ROBIN: YEAR ONE, and he outdoes that showing here. He inks himself for this story, and that keeps the characters looking clear and consistent throughout the length of the book. When you consider that the book was probably drawn over the time span of at least four months, that's a pretty nifty thing. He's possessed of an open line. His characters appear more welcome in the animated world than the real one, in a very similar way to that of artist Darwyn Cooke. It's not highly stylized. He keeps the story flowing from panel to panel and gets out of the way long enough to tell the story.
Dave Stewart does the coloring this time out, replacing Lee Loughridge, who's a favorite of mine and did the honors on the original mini-series written by Milligan. Stewart's colors work in that they retain the simplicity of the art, while not competing for the reader's attention. But there's something missing here that Loughridge's colors have. It's a brightness, I think. Loughridge uses a brighter palette of colors, and meshes them well against darker tones to create a better sense of depth. Stewart's colors, while very technically adept and helpful to the storytelling, don't pop out as much. It doesn't add the extra emphasis that I feel Loughridge's technique does.
The book has one definite strike against it. The cover price is $30. WONDER WOMAN: HIKETEIA, which hit shops this week, is a comparable volume for $5 less. I suppose it's economics of scale at work. An original hardcover based on a standard DC superhero will probably sell more than a high concept Vertigo thriller. It's a great story and the physical product is very nice, but you'll have to judge for yourself how much you want to read it right now. I'd say the odds are pretty good that you'll see this story in a trade paperback around the end of the year, or beginning of next. I wouldn't blame you for waiting. If you were holding off on buying this book until you saw if anyone else liked it, then I'll tell you right now to pull out your credit card and get it. It's a fascinating book.
I'm happy with my purchase. I've read the book twice already to prepare for this review, and will probably get back to it again before the summer is out. It's a vertiginous emotional roller coaster ride with a well thought out high concept and gifted execution.
PIPELINE 5th ANNIVERSARY COMICS GIVEAWAY
It seems I picked a good time to stop the voting in the contests that ran all last week. The votes slowly trickled to a crawl and finally ceased to come at all by Wednesday afternoon. Without further ado, here are the names of the winners:
Monday: The Image prize package goes to Chad Trout, of PA Furnace, PA. I tell you, Pennsylvania has some of the strangest town names of any state in this nation.
Tuesday: The package of kiddy-friendly material, including a pair of highly coveted GROO trades, will be shipped to John Hartnett in Tampa, Florida. I'm just glad he didn't win the CrossGen contest, or someone might have accused me of fixing it for the hometown boy. ;-)
Wednesday: Two winners were drawn for the CrossGen contest: Joshua Katchen up in Thornhill, ON, Canada and Dennis Ledesma across the river from me in Staten Island, NY.
Thursday: Joe Henderson in Studio City, CA won the Marvel Comics prize package.
Friday: The AIT/PlanetLar books are going off to Josh Buchin in Berkeley, CA, not all that far from the publishing company's world headquarters. The Top Cow books are headed out to John Goodman from Minneapolis, MN. Finally, the pack of Image and Indie titles is off to Peter Butt in Rollinsford, New Hampshire.
Thanks to the hundreds of you who entered over the past week. I have to admit that I'm surprised the contests ended with one winner from out of the country. I had numerous e-mails from places like Greece, Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico, and Chile. (Did you know that Chile doesn't have Zip codes? Thanks, Diego! ;-) It just looks like they were drowned out by the continental 48 states.
It also appears to have helped if you had a first name beginning with the letter 'J.' Now that's just odd.
Come back next week for some regular comic reviews, another trade paperback review or two, and much, much more.
More than 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.