Mark Millar has been busy killing the superhero stories you've come to love.
Marvel's next big flick, Captain America: Civil War, is based on his idea of putting Earth's mightiest heroes at war with one another because of legislation. Many of his books, like Wanted, Kick-Ass, and The Secret Service (a.k.a. Kingsman: Secret Service), have been turned into movies. His brooding 2013 comic, Jupiter's Legacy, is in the development stages. And it's only a matter of time before Jupiter's Circle, Legacy's sordid Mad Men-esque prequel, gets the same treatment. Millar is adept at giving us a cynical, violent, and hyper-political view of superheroes.
Now he's doing something different.
Teaming up with the brilliant artist Rafael Albuquerque, the two have delivered what is perhaps 2015's kindest superhero comic, Huck. There are no villains (yet). There are no capes. There aren't any giant plots to take over the world. Set in Small Town, USA, the book reveals the secret of Huck — a superhero without a cape — who performs incredible, lifesaving feats. But it's all about to go to mush.
Knowing how dark Millar can get, Huck's compassion and earnestness make it feel like something went wrong at the writer's well-oiled comic-book assembly line. So many of his books use violence, revenge, and evil to define heroism. In Huck, Millar takes those factors out of the equation, and instead compares Huck with the humanity around him. He's better than all of us.
There are no superhuman fights or dazzling superpowers in Huck. The feats here, although spectacular, are quietly human, and Albuquerque's stellar art reflects that. Albuquerque shows restraint, but still keeps the panels taut during smaller action sequences. There's also a bright joy and lightness — David McCaig is a master alchemist when it comes to color — that's evident in Albuquerque's work. It's something we don't often get to see with our recent rash of noir heroes.
Millar's clean, minimal writing complements the art, avoiding bogging things down with unneeded words. But I'm interested to see how he continues writing Huck, who is similar to Forrest Gump, without being patronizing or condescending. There's a delicate, careful balance here, and while Millar walks that fine line in the debut issue, that could get trickier over time.
If there's a fault to Huck, it's the comic's desire to plant itself in the present day. (There's a reference to Boko Haram that feels a bit unnecessary.) So much of the comic book works because of its nostalgic, E.T., Amblin-esque feel. Huck doesn't need to be current to be great. It already is.