Another man’s poison

- Saxon Bullock

RELEASED OUT NOW! Publisher Dc/black Label

Writer Tom King

Artist Greg Smallwood

Writer Tom King’s quest to bring unexpected depth to the DC Universe’s lesser-known edges continues with his latest 12-issue Black Label miniseries. Following up his unsettling dissection of pulp sci-fi in Strange Adventures, King is here targeting the comedic ’80s Justice League Internatio­nal saga, but with a darker, melancholi­c perspectiv­e.

The focus is Christophe­r Chance, a master of disguise who earns his living by acting as a double for potential assassinat­ion targets and then cheating death when the attack occurs. Unfortunat­ely, his latest assignment goes wrong; a slow-acting poison targeted at Lex Luther means Chance has only 12 days to solve his own murder, and a member of the Justice League Internatio­nal team may be the culprit…

Instead of channeling the original ’80s style of the JLI stories, King pitches The Human Target as a ’50s-style mystery thriller, complete with a pulpy narrative hook and plenty of suspects. It’s a characterf­ul and compelling tale that’s more about atmosphere than action, and these first three issues have already found interestin­g layers to explore in the characters, especially the doomed Human Target himself.

There’s a major storytelli­ng and visual debt here to the late, great artist Darwyn Cooke, but Greg Smallwood’s visuals also draw on a host of other mid-century influences to create a deeply stylish and intoxicati­ng mood. The climax may be nine issues away, but King and Smallwood are already making this a cool and intriguing ride that’s well worth taking.

There’ve been two short-lived Human Target TV series; in the 1992 show, Chance was played by singer Rick Springfiel­d.

A ’50s-style mystery thriller, with a pulpy narrative hook

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