Tom King’s signature brand of subversion-via-character-assassination has come for the Justice League International, as between the pages of his current run on DC Comics’ latest volume of The Human Target, the notoriously edgy author has – both metaphorically and literally – killed the character of founding team member and fan-favorite Green Lantern Guy Gardner.
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Featuring illustrations by Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight Vol. 8), King’s DC Black Label Human Target series opens with Christopher Chance, in a case of mistaken identity, poisoned with a near-untraceable toxin while standing in for Lex Luthor during a public appearance.
With only twelve days left to live, Chance sets out to uncover the identity of his accidental killer and solve the mystery of his own murder, only to quickly learn from the Justice Society’s Doctor Mid-Nite that the poisoning circulating through his system could only have originated from a member of the JLI.
Soon after beginning his investigation, Chance is met in his office by JLI member Tora “Ice” Olafsdotter, who after learning of the plot to kill Luthor from a worried Doctor Mid-Nite, approaches the dying man to offer her help in investigating her former teammates – primarily to keep the authorities from misattributing the crime to her best friend, Beatriz “Fire” da Costa.
Recalling her death at the hands of the Overmaster during the 1990s DC crossover Judgement Day, Ice informs Chance that a subsequent investigation by Gardner into the villain’s attack revealed that “Overmaster came because Lex reached out to him.”
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“I told [Fire] what Guy had said,” she says. “She went off about she was going to…she says a lot of things, she’s hotheaded, she doesn’t mean it. But that day she said she wanted to kill Lex.”
“But I knew she didn’t,” she adds. “I knew she wouldn’t. She’s angry, but she’s not a killer. If you know her. And I know her.”
Their first evening together soon ends with them sharing a kiss while swimming in the ocean.
The next morning, much to his surprise, Chance awakes to find an angry Gardner sitting at the foot of his bed.
Depicted as a stereotypical ‘violently jealous ex-boyfriend,’ the red-headed Green Lantern promptly proceeds to voice his disapproval of Chance’s blossoming relationship with Ice, questioning his romantic rival, “I heard you were hanging around with my girl. What’s your problem, man?”
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As Chance attempts to shoot Gardner in self-defense, the latter deflects the bullet with his Ring, taunting the spy, “You think you’re a smarty, you know just all about Ice, smarty. Let me tell you, you got no [email protected]$%#&@ clue who that #%@” is,” before beating him unconscious with a handful (no pun intended) of fist-shaped constructs.
After the spy awakens from his beating, he and Ice prepare to meet their first lead, making their way to his car and setting a destination for Booster Gold.
Stalking the two to a red-light, Gardner once more inserts himself into the situation, pulling up alongside Chance’s car and proceeding to speak, once again, like a bad movie stereotype of an abusive lover.
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“Ice, baby, I’m just doing what’s best for you,” cries Gardner. “You know me, I know you, you don’t know him. There’s nothing more important to me than you, baby. We’re forever you and me, how many times did we say that? I remember you saying it to me, don’t you remember?”
Following their meeting with Booster, the pair again find themselves face-to-face with Gardner, who this time has disassembled Chance’s car in a childish attempt to offer Ice a ride.
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Later that same night, Gardner is shown bursting into Chance’s hotel room and using his powers to attack him, only coming to a stop thanks to his friend’s impersonation of Hal Jordan, as made possible through a combo of his personal identity-masking technology and Booster’s Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring.
Chance then continues his investigation, gleaming further leads from his individual meetings with the Blue Beetle and the Martian Manhunter and growing ever closer to Ice all the while, eventually giving into their feelings and sleeping with each other.
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Unsurprisingly, this does not sit well with Gardner, who in the series’ recently released sixth issue, breaks into Ice’s home the following morning to further attempt some sort of violent, possessive control over his ex-girlfriend.
“Bad baby, bad, bad, bad,” condescends Gardner amidst a flurry of blows. “You need to learn what’s good for you.”
Finding herself fed up with his obsessive behavior, Ice then unleashes the full might of her cryokinetic powers, literally freezing Gardner in his tracks.
Making his way to his feet, Chance takes advantage of Ice’s rage to deliver a single straight punch to Gardner’s head, shattering it completely.
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With a tap of her hand, Ice proceeds to finish the job, pushing Gardner’s body over and allowing it to shatter upon the floor.
It is on this floor, paired against a wordy diatribe from King near-explicitly spelling out his already heavy-handed allusion of Gardner as a violent ex who was killed after pushing his victim too far, that the Guardians’ first choice to protect Sector 2814 ultimately melts away into nothing.
With Gardner’s corpse disintegrated, the two then proceed “upstairs to her bed,” sleeping with each other before Chance turns his attentions back to his investigation.
What do you make of King’s character assassination of Guy Gardner? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below.
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