Human Target #2
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Tom King is someone who consistently puts out thoughtful works that ask a little bit more of the reader than your average issue of mainstream comics. He does it so often, and so successfully, that it almost seems the hype surrounding Human Target doesn’t reflect just how good it is. Tom King and Greg Smallwood’s Human Target #2 seems to confirm that this book is better than the hype suggests.
For a book that has so much going for it, I want to start with the small quibbles I have in the interest of not just gushing. For instance, in terms of grounding myself in the mystery and the overall story — well, let’s just say we’re still in the ‘Tom King holds your head underwater’ phase of things. This isn’t an inherent negative, as this is an essential piece of weaving a mystery; but it is always worth noting that at this point the mystery could be complete nonsense and we wouldn’t even be capable of realizing it yet simply because there haven’t been enough pages yet. That in mind, it certainly doesn’t seem like nonsense — in fact it’s quite the opposite.
This creative team consists of two guys who couldn’t have a stronger grip on comics as a medium. Sometimes two big names come together on some book that’s meant to be the next big thing, but ultimately it fizzles out and ends up not being a good match. However, Tom King and Greg Smallwood have demonstrated in just two issues how well their sensibilities benefit from each other.
On one hand, Tom King pulls from his years of experience with this twelve-issue format and displays here what borders on mastery over it. He knows exactly how much time he can spend just having two characters talk and relate to each other on a human level, as it’s essential that the reader care something for the characters involved in the mystery before being asked to invest themselves in it. It’s this understanding of the time and space allotted to him that allows King to let his scripts breathe and arrange the pieces in a way that feels natural.
This issue focuses almost entirely on Christopher Chance, our Human Target, and Ice – a Justice League International alumni. Both of whom are characters I have only a passing familiarity with, yet I just found myself enraptured by their dialogue. King tends to hide layers of subtleties through his scripts, and this one is no exception. This little slice of life tale hides the darkness of it’s plot behind a layer of beauty and comfort that you just want to exist in for a while, before it slowly begins revealing it’s ugly side for just a moment.
King makes the choice to dig into Ice’s backstory. As someone completely unfamiliar with that subject, I found this sequence to be particularly telling of the team’s talent. First, it’s presented as this fantastical fairy tale that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out was her actual backstory in the 80’s. Then, as King often does, the rug is pulled out from under us as we find out what really happened, and how her old origin had been nothing but a tale told by a girl trying to cope with her trauma. While I’m guessing this updated origin is likely an overly bleak and modernized take on the character cooked up within the last twenty years — the way the two work together for this story is fantastic. The colors, the dialogue, the pace; it all leads back to the essential piece of the puzzle; Greg Smallwood.
Greg Smallwood first became known to me back in 2015, when he did his critically-acclaimed run on Moon Knight with Jeff Lemire. That book sits on my shelf due to this day, and it’s in large part due to the outstanding work by Smallwood. Coming across him all these years later on this book has been thrilling for me. It’s clear that Smallwood has put everything he has into this project, taking up not just penciling duties (which would be enough on it’s own), but also the inking and coloring. Every visual piece of this puzzle is crafted by one guy, and he takes the quality to new heights. His unrivaled character acting and figure drawing are just icing on the cake when compared to his sheer might of storytelling ability. The way he slowly and pleasantly guides you through this story, which is done through manipulation of the color (among other things), makes me feel that Smallwood is perhaps going to go down as one of the greatest to ever do it, and this book will be the proof of it.
In the end, there’s so much to say about Human Target #2 that I think the only way to truly understand it is to go and check it out yourself. Tom King and Greg Smallwood are a match made in heaven, and it’s as close to perfect of an issue as you can hope for from mainstream comics. I anxiously await the next installment in a way I haven’t felt since the last time Tom King made me feel it.
Human Target #2
In the end, there’s so much to say about Human Target #2 that I think the only way to truly understand it is to go and check it out yourself. Tom King and Greg Smallwood are a match made in heaven, and it’s as close to perfect of an issue as you can hope for from mainstream comics. I anxiously await the next installment in a way I haven't felt since the last time Tom King made me feel it.