Monday, 30 June 2014

MPH #1 Review (Mark Millar, Duncan Fegredo)

Mark Millar’s recent string of unremarkable comics - Kick Ass 3, Jupiter’s Legacy, Starlight - continues with MPH, a story that’s basically about characters like The Flash without calling them The Flash. 

Thirty years ago some guy was able to run superhumanly fast thanks to a drug known as MPH. Fast forward to Detroit in 2014, and we meet Roscoe, a drug dealer who gets arrested and thrown in the slammer after being caught selling twenty pounds of cocaine. There, some prison dealer burnout somehow has a container of the same MPH drug which he offers Roscoe, who pops a pill - and then things change. Suddenly Roscoe can move so fast, he can walk out of prison and, with his newfound superhuman speed, the world is his oyster! 

If you’re familiar with Millar’s takes on superhero stories, you’ll be unsurprised with this first issue. The main character’s a put-upon schlubb who gets screwed over by the higher-ups, while elsewhere an older, wiser character in introduced, and then the hero gets their powers and begins realising their potential. 

Difference here is our main character Roscoe swallowed a motivational speaker’s book and spends most of this issue spouting that kind of American Dream drivel, even going so far as to make something as insipid as a “vision board” where he posts photos of all his shallow ambitions - expensive car, big house, money, etc. - in a vain attempt to somehow realise them sooner. 

I want to root for Roscoe who’s been dealt a tough hand growing up in Detroit, a city that’s literally filed for bankruptcy, with so few opportunities that he’s forced to deal drugs to get enough capital to invest in something legit, but I hate his corporate-speak - it just makes him sound even more of a tool than he already is! 

And speaking of dealing drugs, how the hell does a prison dealer get his hands on something like MPH in the first place? And, what, Roscoe happened to be the first and only person to try it - why not the dealer, who says he’ll do any drug? More importantly, why isn’t MPH under lock and key in some government lab? It just seems a bit too convenient that Roscoe would come across something like this drug at just the right moment. 

Duncan Fegredo’s art here is pretty good but he’s not given much chance to draw anything challenging which is where he shines. With Hellboy, he drew some breathtaking images as Mike Mignola’s scripts took in elements of fantasy and horror, swirling them all together and really getting the best out of Fegredo. With Millar’s MPH, the first issue is mainly set in a dull prison with a few drab urban scenes outside of it. It’s decently rendered, it’s just that having seen Fegredo’s abilities, I feel that the script’s not serving him well. 

MPH #1 is really just a serviceable opening issue rather than a firecracker of one. It’s Millar going through the motions rather than producing anything original and rather than be excited for what’s to come, I’m ambivalent as to where the series will go (I’m guessing getting even with his former drug boss, robbing some places, and then going straight). It’s sets up the story well enough but the story doesn’t seem very interesting at all.


  1. I got myself really pumped for this issue. I haven't read anything else by Millar (watched Kickass years ago). I just love Fegredo. It was pretty disappointing story-wise, and youre right on the money about the script not allowing Fegredo to shine. I was shocked at the amount of detail and effort that went into some rather dull scenes, like sitting at a table in a fast-food restaurant.

    1. Yeah, I found this and the second issue to be of a much lower quality than Millar's usual. But if you're looking for some recs on some good Millar comics, check out: Old Man Logan, Superman: Red Son, The Ultimates and Nemesis.