One of my favorite things about being a lover and devoted reader of any genre is getting to know the styles of the various writers and learning which ones appeal to me and which ones don’t. Since I’ve only been reading graphic novels for the past decade or so, it has been interesting to get to know some of the current big names in the industry without having the knowledge of some of the greats like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller. Some I like, some I really don’t. When you get to know authors, you tend to expect a certain style from them. When I pick up an Ed Brubaker story, I know I can expect gritty, intensely personal stories that often feature crime or noir in some way. If you’ve read an author before, you’re going to often expect them to write in the same style, with the same voice, that they’re known for. This week I’ll be looking at a series which is a bit away from the status quo for its author: Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque. Millar is known for his over the top violent, cynical and boundary pushing series like Kick Ass and Wanted. In a departure from that, Huck brings out the optimism and classic superhero standard of early Superman in an oddly incongruous feel for a Millar story. Written in 2015, it has already been optioned for movie rights so keep an eye out for this one coming to a theater near you eventually.
Huck is the story of an unassuming gas station clerk named (as you might expect) Huck. Huck lives in a quiet little town and while he’s known for seeming a bit slow, he also has an open secret: he can help people find things. Whether it’s an item or a living creature, Huck will not only locate it but track it down for whoever asks him. Huck’s ability to locate things is not his only superpower. He can jump pretty incredible distances, move at high speeds, has super strength and probably a few other things (I started losing track). Huck was raised in the local orphanage by a few nuns to do one good deed everyday and goes around town helping everyone as best he can. In return, the town keeps Huck’s secret so he isn’t overwhelmed or taken advantage of by unscrupulous characters. But when a newcomer to the town reveals Huck’s secret to the world, Huck finds out that he has a family out there and sets off to find them. For someone raised to always do good, being exposed to the larger world means a few people will try to take advantage and it’s up to Huck to decide who he can trust on his search for his family.
As I said at the beginning, Huck is a bit of an odd duck for Millar. If you’re not familiar with his previous work, let me just go ahead and reveal that he considers rape a plot device and that one of his main villains goes around murdering people because he wants to be the worst bad guy ever. Subtlety and optimism haven’t exactly been Millar’s gig pre-Huck. Which is why I kind of have to wonder at what motivated Millar to tell this story. Because Huck is a classic boy scout Superman wannabe. I don’t want to spoil the story but it involves evil Russian scientists, unscrupulous governors and more “aw shucks” country boy manners than you can shake a fist at. I’m not sure if this is a blatant attempt for another movie deal or just a bizarre new path for Millar but I can’t say I was a fan of Huck. It’s not terrible, even Millar at his strangest isn’t a bad writer. He’s generally one I find unappealing but not terrible. Mostly Huck is just boring. The conflict with his family is easily solved with a few good punches and trust in his fellow people, the evil scientists are no match for the boyscout and everyone goes on their merry way. Other than being taken advantage of by a slimy politician, there are no repercussions for Huck’s identity as a superhero being revealed and he never gets deluged with requests for help (despite the obvious fact that he’d be buried alive under requests in reality). I found the whole story unbelievable even for a super hero and Huck himself was too much cardboard to be interesting as a character. The one strength of the series is the as always great art of Rafael Albuquerque. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story that Albuquerque did art for that I didn’t enjoy his bright colors, dark, angular linework and compelling action sequences. While Millar’s writing about made me fall asleep, I very much enjoyed Albuquerque’s work once again.
Huck isn’t one of those stories that I’d recommend staying away from, but it’s also not one I’d go out of my way to recommend to people. If you want a wholesome, early Superman-esque story about a good guy triumphing over the forces of evil, Huck may be your cup of tea. It’s not a bad story all around, just eminently forgettable among the many other much more compelling stories available in the graphic novel world.