REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILER BETWEEN UNDERLINED PORTIONS IN FIFTH AND SEVENTH PARAGRAPH.
This is one hell of a surprise.
Mark Millar’s been on a steady uptick in the last handful of years. Kick-Ass, Wanted, and some of its nihilistic partners-in-author were traded for the likes of Starlight, a heart-on-its-sleeve ‘what if I wrote Flash Gordon?’ story; Chrononauts, which is basically Top Gun with even bigger jerks and time-travel. Now, Mark Millar’s decided: ‘what if I got the chance to, more or less, write Superman again?’ The result is Huck, and it’s obscenely good.
Millar often falls into the hackneyed or the predictable, but what this one does that sets it apart from the rest of Millar’s work, is that Huck keeps the surprises coming. They’re small, character-based surprises: they’re centered around the titular character’s good deeds around his small town, and they’re really effective, maybe even a little tear-jerking at times. This might come off as the Millar equivalent of Oscar-bait, but it’s not rape jokes. Furthermore, it’s incredibly endearing and seems, as much as it can, to come from the heart.
Rafael Albuquerque comes to Huck loaded for bear, as the artists that work with Millar often do. The opening pages are nothing short of dazzling; the speed, energy, and wonder conveyed give you an idea of what you can expect on multiple levels: Albuquerque is going to tear the roof off the place, and we don’t need Huck explained to us, on account of the mostly-silent storytelling. He can do amazing things. He’s basically Superman. We get it. What he does here (or they do here, depending on how much credit you want to give Money Mark) is similar to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s opening salvo in the first issue of All-Star Superman. It’s a lofty comparison, but it’s apt. Albuquerque, beyond that, does not phone in a single page of Huck. This is a book with rock-solid panel-by-panel communication, and what’s communicated is kind of beautiful.
There is an incredibly questionable decision by Millar in the last handful of pages of Huck that pulls the book into doubt. A MINOR SPOILER IS IN THE PARAGRAPH AFTER THIS UNDERLINED TEXT: DON’T READ IF YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED! “INCREDIBLY QUESTIONABLE DECISION” MIGHT BE ENOUGH OF A TIP-OFF FOR YOU!
MINOR SPOILER BEGINS:
Millar falls into another old-world Millar tendency: to bring real-world events into places they’re not needed. There are absolute defenses to be made for the decision; it serves the story, but one wonders how he could’ve done it without incorporating something so incredibly real-world. Superheroes, or adventure characters, whatever Huck ends up falling under, work best within the limitations of fiction. To call back to All-Star Superman: you don’t see Superman trying to stop 9/11, even though this posits itself as the ultimate Superman story. To call out an absolutely terrible story that tries to hard to attach the fantastic to the mundane: in J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Grounded, the real-world aspects are saccharine (a woman spits on Superman for not curing her husband’s cancer, in one of the worst scenes ever in a superhero comic), invite no character development, and do nothing to show Superman as the everyman he truly is. Millar could absolutely bounce back from this; the pages that follow show why he did it. It never quite gets into the JMS story’s “What were you thinking?” territory. However, it’s a first issue. If this kind of thing persists, it could drag down what could be a very special book in Huck.
MINOR SPOILER ENDS. YOU MAY BREATHE NOW.
A Mark Millar story is almost always going to have minor gripes. Speedbumps aside, Huck has everything going for it, for the most part: incredible art by Rafael Albuquerque, Millar at his most open and optimistic, and a lead character and supporting cast that you want to see more of. This is a great debut. As for the rest? Time will tell.