Human Target #11
Christopher Chance has been poisoned. Though it was intended for Lex Luthor, the Human Target has 12 days to figure out who killed him. With the Justice League International as the primary suspects, who amongst their ranks would have the motivation and skill to kill Lex Luthor and can Chance find them before the poison ravages his body?
The mystery has finally been solved.
As Christopher Chance says in his opening monologue, sometimes our first guess is the right one, which makes it all the more shocking that Tora Olafsdottir, a.k.a. Ice, was the one who ends up killing him. In true Tom King fashion, the writer has managed to take a character typically known for lighthearted storytelling and bubbly characteristics and has given them another layer of personality. I think it works best with Ice because, even amongst the third string members of the Justice League International, she always sort of sat in the background as “the naive but nice one,” or “the girl that Guy Gardner likes” or “Fire’s best friend,” and was often left without much in the way of agency. King changes that in this story by making her the secondary main character/overall antagonist of the book with the revelation that comes with this issue. What makes it even better is that she doesn’t come off as villainous or malicious, but tragic and angry.
When Ice was killed in the original JLI series, it came off as a cheap way to add drama and stakes to the fight against Overmaster, but King takes and twists this as being the major turning point for Ice herself. Because she was killed for being like the rest of her teammates, deciding to harness her rage into justice, the anger that she felt upon resurrection and a return to the status quo made her far darker than she had ever been. One of the main statements in this book is that it’s a mistake to underestimate Ice because, if she wanted to be, she could be one of the most dangerous super powered individuals on the planet. When that bubbling rage is combined with years of infantilization and a need for revenge, you get the prime motivation for murder.
And this issue itself acts as a counter to all of that. Ice expected a grand show of her being carted away to jail after she tells Chance what she had done, but that was never his motivation. He just wanted to find out who killed him, so all of her anger is diffused momentarily because Chance got what he wanted; answers, and he still chooses to love her after the fact. Chance’s whole day with her is calm and lovely – everything that people believe Ice to be and right up until the end, when it all bubbles back up, seems fairly innocuous. She loves him too and is rageful that he doesn’t care about what she’s done to him; that she’s crossed the line that superheroes shouldn’t cross and won’t face consequences for it. Chance is everything that she wants to be and be with and the fact that she’s the reason that he’s dying devastates her. Punished yet again for being more than what she’s perceived as.
Greg Smallwood’s art is absolutely stellar in this issue. Throughout this series, Smallwood has managed to capture a variety of emotions, but the one that he’s succeeded at the most has been the calm and serene. This particular issue serves that feeling especially as it’s mostly just shots of Chance and Ice relaxing near the beach with a few flashbacks to high tension moments and a heavy ending. His charcoal brushes continue to give us well defined facial expressions and a sense of texture that makes this book a treat to look at. This also helps in many of the scenes where the panel pulls in to characters to get close ups brimming with emotional resonance. One of the best pages in the entire book is a six panel grid with Chance and Ice on either panel that keeps pulling in closer until it mostly shows Ice crying into his chest and him being fairly unconcerned. It’s so powerful of a scene that really shows how intensely she feels for him and how much he’s resigned himself to his fate.
His coloring is also on an entirely different level as he utilizes calm colors and earth tones to capture the mood of this story. Throughout this book, Smallwood utilizes teal and dark yellows in a variety of ways. The teal acts as the color for the water that Chance and Ice find themselves in on the beach where they first met and is also seen in the flashback where Ice breaks away from Overmaster’s control. Teal can elicit feelings of open communication and clear thought – represented by Christopher and Ice talking about her murder plot without anger towards one another and her freeing herself from the villain in the past respectively. The yellow gives us a dual meaning for both her fear of losing the man she’s grown to love over these few days and the warmth that they seem to share while being together.
Clayton Cowles’ lettering brings the whole book together into a nice, complete package. Over the entirety of this book, Cowles has done an excellent job of placing his word balloons and thought bubbles, allowing him to maintain the aesthetic of the book. That skill remains in this issue as well and goes to another height with the lettering elevating the flashbacks that take place in the latter half of the book. With the panels on one side and Ice’s confession on the other, it helps to give the book a sense of isolation and guilt, almost keeping the words away from the actions themselves. It’s absolutely excellent and Clayton Cowles keeps showing why he’s one of the best letterers in comics right now.
The Human Target doesn’t miss. Every single issue of this series has been compelling and expertly crafted by Tom King, Greg Smallwood and Clayton Cowles. The story is excellent, the art is amazing and the lettering is astoundingly great. This is one of the best comics DC is publishing and I can’t wait for what the finale is going to bring!
Human Target #11 – We All Go Down
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 9.5/109.5/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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