It’s hard to see where MPH #1 is tonally. It’s not super-gritty and overtly violent like Nemesis and Kick-Ass but it’s not exactly a light-hearted affair like Superior or more recently Starlight. I guess it could be said it falls into that middle ground where The Secret Service and Supercrooks lie – trying to be a hip pastiche on a genre that is very Mark Millar in style – but even then I can’t figure out where it’s going. The first issue is all setup and feels like it’s trying to get us to sympathize with the main character. It works on some points. The character is a crook with a heart of gold who plans to get out of the business – oh and he lives in modern Detroit (which feels like Millar playing to ignorant stereotypes just a little maybe?) – and he seems like a genuinely sweet person who got stuck with a crap life. It’s good that Millar’s going for sympathetic here, but at times it feels oddly perfunctory; a case of too little, too late. I know it’s only a five issue miniseries but even so it feels a little rushed out the door so we can get to the super speed drugs faster.
Speaking of super speed, Duncan Fegredo is an extremely odd choice for this particular style of book, one where movement, kinetic dynamics, and plain old super speed need to be captured accurately. Fegredo’s work is too chunky and thick to portray that sort of thing, and he makes super speed look more like time slowing down. It’s an interesting approach, but I don’t think Fegredo was the right artist for this kind of book. Everything else looks gorgeous from the characters to the environments, and everything is colored fairly realistically, but I don’t think Fegredo captures the action and weightlessness that super speed needs to feel like super speed. It’s polarizing to see a strong artist on something that’s outside of his boundaries but at the same time it’s good that he’s looking outside the box for work he normally wouldn’t do. On initial glance it’s aesthetically pleasing but needs a little more substance behind it.
The same could be said of Mark Millar comics in general. They’re the equivalent of summer-movie blockbusters (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing mind you), big on fun and action but light on thematic weight or depth. Most of them are light and breezy reads, and MPH #1 is no different. I’d recommend picking it up if you’re into Millar’s work or just looking for something quick and fun to read with an intriguing end setup to boot.
My rating: 3/5