Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: In the Name of the Father
Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Cliff Chiang
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Clem Robins
Editor: Karen Bergin
Publisher: Vertigo > DC Comics
Human Target is always good. Actually, it is always great. Bear that in mind when I tell you that this is one of the best issues of the series to date.
Cults, and actually even “accepted” religions, have always been easy and dramatic targets to take aim at. It is easy to derive stories out of their trappings, their leaders, their followers, or the mystique behind them. It is even easier to fall into any number of the numerous clichÃƒÂ©s that are associated with such stories: pedophiliac priests, greedy leaders, religious men who have lost their way, mindless followers, mindless, violent followers, exploding curfew wafers…well, maybe not so much that last one. While a few of these clichÃƒÂ©s do come up, they are handled in such a manner that they do not drag the story down.
Additionally, he manages to write a story that, somehow, is respectful, yet humorous about religion and believing in a higher power. Whether or not Paul is the real deal or a puppet charlatan is something easily dismissed as Milligan instead focuses on Paul as a person. He is flawed, self-doubting, and, in the end, a fairly likeable guy. That the Paul revealed through the narration has so little in common with his thundering stage presence is revealing. He may have performed a miracle, but he no more believes that that makes him the real deal than Chance does. Yet, there he is, in his all white suit, ministering to his flock in front of posters with his image and words like “Submit” underneath him. It is a testament (pun not intended) to Milligan’s talent that Paul never comes across as a sanctimonious hypocrite despite this severe dichotomy.
I mentioned above that the script, in addition to humanizing a man who, in essence, is more Jim Jones than Joe Schmo, it has a great sense of humor about itself as well. Whether it be the Catholic and Episcopalian thugs who banter back and forth about how lousy the other’s religion is, Chance musing about Bruno’s relationship with “beards”, or Chance commenting that it is nice to have an assignment for once that does not involve him avoiding being killed while plans to do just that are being arranged without his knowledge, each piece of humor set up delivers.
The plot is a complex one, (Chase is imitating Paul to give Paul some time off and to investigate and discredit Paul so Bruno does not give over his restaurant to him. Meanwhile, Paul’s handlers do seem to have something besides religion and what is best for him in their minds. Also, Princess, a Paul follower, is trying to grow away from her father who now has a vendetta with Paul and hopes to eliminate him. See, what I mean?), but characterization does not suffer for it. As mentioned before, Paul becomes a fully realized individual, not a madman or cruel manipulator. Bruno continues to be a great foil to Chance and his increased devotion to Paul has been building since almost issue #1. Even Princess and her father are given enough on panel time to have layers.
The real news, though, is that Chance seems to be evolving as well. He is, still, a profoundly messed up man, of course. To have him straighten up and fly right ruins the series. However, after the events of the last arc, he finally seems to be regaining some sense of self. The fractured man he was in issue 1 was barely living at all. He was avoiding the assuming of others’ identities because he felt he had lost himself to it. Here, he seems to have rediscovered a joy in it, perhaps because he has reclaimed a portion of himself along the way.
Finally, any review of #14 would be remiss if I failed to mention the return of Chiang to art duties. His pencils and inks are perfect to mirror both the merging of the banality and the sinister that represent Chance’s day to day life. Sparse, yet oddly detailed, it is great to see him cataloging the Human Target’s adventures once again.
The most underrated and ignored of the Vertigo greats (Fables, and Y rounding out the trilogy), this book needs and deserves your love. This is a great issue to come aboard.