Thursday, 12 June 2014

New Beginnings - MPH #1

by Matt Puddy

Mark Millar has been a busy bunny and we have yet another title from him this week – MPH. Now the thing I like about Millar on most of his Millarworld titles is that they go against the normal conventions of comic lore and do their own thing. A refreshing off-piste perspective. True to form MPH is another example of both of these components.

Opening in 1986, an unknown individual is seen speeding across several states seemingly out of control. As a reader we know this is Mr Springfield, the world's first and only superhuman making a terrible debut in the world. He is very quickly bagged, tagged and shipped off by the officials leaving a large number of questions including a big one about what the empty pill bottle was for.

Springing forward into 2014 Detroit and we meet some motivated young gang members, one of whom has some big ideas and is using the morally corrupt jobs to finance much bigger and better plans for his future. Unfortunately for him the man who is giving him jobs is far more devious and opportunistic, setting him up for a very big fall and 15 years in prison when caught by the authorities.

Presenting himself as the model inmate, young Mr Rodriguez does his best to reduce his time. All is going well until he finds out the real reason as to why he was incarcerated, just so his former boss could get his girlfriend. Descending further than before he finally turns to Cedric, the prison’s chemical supplier, who tempts him into trying a new drug he received. Once again MPH as resurfaced. Sending him into a seizure while his body adjusts, things then change dramatically. Speeding up to the point that the world flashes by, to slowing down to see individual flickers of fluorescent bulbs. Things are about to change dramatically for this young man, but what will he do with it? Also, what will happen with Mr Springfield who is revealed to have been underground, literally, for the last 30 years?

My frustration with the writing is that although I like Millar, I found it a bit of a something and nothing. Don’t get me wrong I like his work but this issue fell short of what I expected after I had read the preceding blurb. Promised issue #1 of five in a series where a young gang use MPH for their own personal gains, this issue was barely an origin story. I felt I wanted more and considering there are only four more issues left to come, I am wondering what can actually be squeezed into such a short run. This is not out of the normal for Millar though as we have seen the short run, tightly packed format from him time and time again in titles like Supercrooks, Superior and Nemesis, and they were all great.

Duncan Fegredo is the artist with Millar for the comic and is quite well observed outside of the big two. There is Hellboy of course, but there's also notable works on 2000AD or various Star Wars titles. He’s also worked with Millar before projects like this and has a cover art list longer than my arms! It’s a style which I have come to associate quite a lot with Millarworld titles as well if honest. There are tonnes of details in all of the frames, although occasionally continuity in the faces slip a little, but without making them feel too clean or fresh. It’s hard to explain but there is a carefully planned and executed artistic roughness in some cases and it works well to provide a good human feel to it with realistic people and situations shown. I liked his work in this instance, I just wanted him to have something more to work with.

As a story – a speedster on the wrong tracks – it comes across OK. You feel for the main character and can back him, even his break out, but we haven’t hit the main bulk of the story. I reckon Millar will pull it around quickly but will it be too, much too fast (pun intended) as he tries to finish in so few issues? We will see. 

Matt Puddy is no stranger to running.

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