Review by Frank Plowright
Second Chances combines a pair of four-chapter stories featuring Christopher Chance, the man who’ll take your place when you know someone’s trying to kill you. Chance had previously been the star of charming back-up strips hinging on mysteries, but while appreciating the gimmick, Peter Milligan searched for something more within the character and his trade. What kind of man would so often risk his life, even for vast sums of money?
Even then Milligan doesn’t supply the obvious death wish answer. He portrays Chance as mentally ill, a person capable of so completely inhabiting another life that even their loved ones can’t tell the difference. The question constantly asked, though, is how far Chance inhabits another life and how far it inhabits him. He previously operated in New York, but now lives in Los Angeles, the neuroses and film industry background a far better fit.
Chance Meetings combines what was previously issued as Human Target and Human Target: Final Cut, two whip sharp and unpredictable journeys into a cracked psyche in a cracked world, with identity as their theme. Yet they’re also two great murky journeys sitting favourably alongside the best crime graphic novels.
Edvin Biuković draws the first, more shadowy than Javier Pulido’s use of California’s light on the second, yet both are atmospheric. Pulido’s admirably economical, a good storyteller who doesn’t supply any more than is necessary, while Biuković is more stylish, but can cram too much distraction into his panels. Importantly, both convey the feelings of their cast, important in character-led mysteries.
Both stories feature characters even more lost than Chance himself. He’s fractured and memorable, yet is there someone else impersonating people? Characters meeting themselves makes for a startling visual moment on a couple of occasions. The opener has Chance himself a target, but for reasons not revealed until the second story, and the creators never leave any doubt that the white Chance can become an older, bulkier African-American preacher or a failing middle-aged actor. Deception and misdirection are well applied, readers fooled along with Chance, and he becomes so embedded into other lives that their problems become his own.
In 2022 the Human Target was revived again, and was another quality outing, but that shouldn’t eclipse Milligan’s work, which reads as well as it did in 2003.