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By Scott SouthardIn comics, especially those concerning super-characters, it’s rare to enjoy something with honesty and innocence. Something that hasn’t been compromised by the stark realities of the modern world. More often than not, modern storytelling presents us with depressingly sensible looks at the way things are, and while there’s nothing innately wrong with that, the negativity can ultimately do a number on your outlook. Sometimes, it’s nice just to read something that looks, well… nice.

And while wide-eyed idealism is optimal and necessary in life, so is paying rent and feeding families. The problem is, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the two can coincide, and we slip into weary patterns of expedient sobriety, leaving most of us feeling passive and dulled.

Mark Millar’s ultra-hyped new venture seems to be an attempt to blend the two ways of looking at things. As an exercised view of the corruption of a beautiful soul, Huck lays out the age-old story where our utopian sensibilities get pummelled into submission, where those grounded axioms are adopted in their stead. We see Huck’s protagonist living life with the positive attitude of a child until he is confronted with the ugly reality of the way things are.

Huck #1 follows its titular character, a physically Herculean, mentally Steinbeckian-type, as he works his gas station job in a small Midwestern town. In between shifts, Huck dutifully performs good deeds for the community, because that’s the way his foster parents raised him. It’s just that the good deeds he performs sometimes involve moving trucks with his bare hands or swimming to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve a lost necklace. Huck performs these deeds with a sense of loving commitment, as if this was what he was put on the earth to do. (A particularly charming moment has Huck asking a terrorist/kidnapper to take off his glasses and immediately punching him in the face. The implication being that Huck is such a simple, gentle soul that he would never hit a man with glasses.) Ah, here comes the charm of Huck along with my reflexive urge to smile while reading. That’s why it hurts that much more, as the first issue abruptly ends with word spreading about Huck and his abilities, and the inevitable media circus that ensues. Enter pessimism.

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When Image is enthusiastically rooting for one of their new series, you can tell, and the level of care and production they put into Huck is awe-striking. Huck is already a top-tier series amid a sea of great properties from the most interesting publisher in the business. The opening pages of intro and credits are classy and gorgeous. Much of this is due to Rafael “I’ll never be able to spell it without Google” Albuquerque’s penwork, which adds immensely to the simple candor of the characters and tone of the book. The elegant fades of motion blur and a color scheme that embodies a sky in twilight or a quiet creek set Huck apart as a delicate and dignified comic.

Millar and Albuquerque lovingly render the idealist’s lapse into complacency. Huck is a look at what’s wrong, not with society, but with how society treats human beings. It’s showing us the difference between how we could live and how we should live. Too often we find ourselves boxed into the corners of our own cynicism, so beaten down by daily life’s complexity that we fail to remember the simple truths we’ve known all along. Hopefully Huck will be that essential reminder that there still exists an idealism for which we can all still reach. 

Image Comics/$3.50

Written by Mark Millar.

Art by Rafael Albuquerque.

Colors by Dave McCaig.

Letters and design by Nate Piekos.

9 out of 10

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