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Mark Millar has had a decent run on his newly released series, and if that seemed like an attempt to force a pun or make wordplay, then you would be correct. MPH is the word and that word is Millar’s new miniseries. Two issues in and it has shown some rather strong hints as being decent and maybe even strains of being something higher. This second issue is really where the series sets out a clear trail for itself.
MPH, when it was first announced, had to perhaps be the riskiest venture of the all-new Millarworld launch. Touching upon socio-political and economical subjects it seemed to be a fast and apt fodder for Millar to phone it in. The focus being on inner city young adults who are gang affiliated put up warning signals as well. Much like SuperCrooks it seemed like a premise destined to fail. Although, also like SuperCrooks, it rapidly became a place where he could break from expectations. Especially in regards to character and to how these things play out.
Our main lead, dubbed Roscoe, could very well have been a typical streetwise punk with a buried heart of gold cliché. While we see him act nicely throughout the first issue this issue begins with him set up to take his revenge on his enemies. There is even a moment of uncertainty in what he is about to do with the people in his crew who have betrayed him. Yet, quite effectively, Roscoe does not succumb to that. He takes a decisive revenge but nothing that extreme. It takes distance between itself and crudity of that base vengeance fantasy. Roscoe, by his varied actions throughout this issue, is simply rounded out to being just a simple, ordinary, nice guy. Which, outside of Superman or related pastiches, Millar has found some trouble getting just right until Roscoe.
One of the most noticeable aspects of this side is the introduction of his friends and loved ones into his new lifestyle. The motional tether between him and the other main characters is established very well to begin with and with enough initial propulsion to get the reader to believe in it and then be able to get invested as it develops. Such propulsion was evidenced in a, admittedly archetypal, “super-speed race”. It’s a nice scene that appeals in the way that all “people just having fun with their powers” scenes appeal. It’s the idea of how one would use their powers if they could. Both of these scenes in this issue really set a softer and more dynamic based story.
The friends themselves haven’t been delved that much into other than being close and having strong bonds. The least developed having to be the “Johnny Storm” of the group, dubbed “Baseball”, has maybe two panels to his credit and really has no actual personality to show for it. Of course this mini has three issues left but the main group is something you want to be shelled out first thing so the story can progress from there. An example within this very issue is the ongoing mystery of “Mr. Springfield”, the first user of the titular MPH drug. It’s very loosely played but still gets enough beats in to remain in the forefront.
Duncan Fegredo’s art remains the absolute highlight, which is the one constant about Millar’s output. The artists are pretty much the reason to continue onward, whether or not the story is good or not. Fegredo proves that he is still a master of the medium with his figure work. The setting comes to gritty, dirty, life and creates a much lived in temperament. The dingy is offset by the hints and splashes of color that sort of embody the hope that the characters have. It has grit, but it’s not overdone or burdened by it. It has that nice balance. Overall my only other complaint has to be the pacing near the end, but nonetheless it is a series to watch.