Human Target: Living in Amerika
Writer Peter Milligan uses human chameleon Christopher Chance to explore the nature of identity. Chance is the world’s best impersonator, and he takes the place of people in danger. In the first story in Human Target: Living in Amerika, he’s pretending to be Father Mike, a priest whose charity work among America’s undesirables — HIV patients, the homeless, immigrants — has made him a target.
Next, in the book’s longest story, Chance is required to take the place of someone who’s himself living a secret life. John Charles has been undercover for over 30 years, ever since his student radical group set off a bomb. Then, in the last chapter of the book, Chance does an old buddy, an escaped convict, a favor. His impersonation will draw the cops’ attention and allow the buddy some time with his wife.
The reader often finds the stories twisting on themselves, with events needing to be reinterpreted as further revelations occur. They’re modern fables, parables about our culture revolving around a false linchpin, the impersonated.
Milligan’s plots raise significant philosophical questions of direct relevance to today’s society. Chance finds that pretending to be a good man means doing good, which makes him a better man than he was. Where does one draw the line between deeds and intent? Can action based on pretense have some of the same effects as true belief? Ultimately, can a bad man do good?
Illustrator Cliff Chiang is an immensely talented artist with a deceptively simple style. Art is particularly important when characters are pretending to be each other, and Chiang does a fabulous job. His style is minimal, like an adult version of the animated cartoon style used for Adventures books, but nothing essential is left out.
He’s terrific at distinguishing between characters and setting up resemblances, capable of both action and reflection. He captures just the right moment of action to give pages flow and movement, and he’s able to draw almost anything beautifully. His notes and sketches that conclude this collection are the icing on a very tasty, thought-provoking cake.