Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Human Target #4 Review

When Everything Goes Right, Something Is Wrong

Written by: Tom King
Art by: Greg Smallwood
Colors by: Greg Smallwood
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: January 25, 2022

Human Target #4 takes Christopher Chance on a superhero ride along as the next stop in his own murder investigation sends him to the head of Kord Industries. When Ice and Blue Beetle give Chance a look into the daily lives of superheroes, what else does he see that the former teammates may be hiding?

Was It Good?

Human Target #4 is an engaging, well-written, spectacularly-drawn issue in the series. Admittedly, some of the sour taste remains from the egregious character assassination of Guy Gardner in the last issue, but #4 seems to have moved past the misstep to get the series back on track and cleanse the reading palette.

When last we left Christopher Chance and Ice, the big clue from their investigation was the existence of a silent partner to Booster Gold's latest business venture. If Booster had the access to the poison's components but not the brains or the motive, somebody close to him did. Since the two are long-associated partners, it makes sense that Ice and Chance would visit Ted Kord aka Blue Beetle next. 

Again, King is either intentionally writing characters out of character or he does no research at all when incorporating long-established characters into his story. This version of Ted Kord is a motor-mouth with a mildly immature speaking voice (e.g. he starts his sentences with "Like" a lot and refers to Chance as "dude"). To be fair, this mischaracterization of Kord's "voice" is nowhere near as offensive as painting Guy Gardner as a stalker ex-boyfriend but it reinforces the pattern of King writing characters, not as themselves. Fans may be put off by this version of Ted Kord, but in truth, it wasn't so far off as to be a problem for the direction of the story.

The issue accomplishes two things very well, beyond the jaw-dropping art from Greg Smallwood. First, it cements the romance between Ice and Chance in an organic and believable way that's fascinating to watch. Second, the issue is mostly filler with the next clue dropped almost at the very end, but the filler is not entirely pointless. Chance tagging along with Ice and Blue Beetle on a series of superhero missions appears, possibly, to be an intended distraction... maybe. 

A well-done mystery keeps you guessing and gives you just enough breadcrumbs to leave you wanting more. Here, we get doubts and half-clues that make the puzzle more intriguing, and that's the mark of a well-executed detective story. When you feel like you can't trust anything for what it appears, the creators have done their job.

In all, this is a deceptively great issue. If King can keep this level of mystery up and stick the landing, he may have a winner on his hands.

Make sure to listen to our Weekly DC Comics Recap and Review Podcast to hear us talk more about this book.  Just look up "Weird Science DC Comics" anywhere you listen to podcasts, and make sure to rate, review, and subscribe!

Bits and Pieces:

Human Target #4 takes the subtle route by planting seeds of doubt and misdirection for a detective story that holds up. The art is stellar, and while this version of Ted Kord is wildly out of joint for his established character, the writing is excellently executed. The character assassination of Guy Gardner in the last issue still stings, but this issue makes up for it... a little.

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