MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo
Mark Millar knows how to tell a story, how to hook us with a plot, how to pace the events so that we feel as if we are in that perfect summer blockbuster we yearn for every year. He’s done it again in MPH, which he wrote with his co-creator and artist Duncan Fegredo and letterer and colorist Peter Doherty. I made the mistake of starting this story at midnight, and I could not put it down until I was done. I completely lost track of time.
MPH is the story of Roscoe, a young man with a vision and hope springing eternal, even though he’s a poor black man living a life with few legal opportunities in a physically and economically broken-down Detroit. He’s such an earnest and hopeful young man that he turns to selling drugs only as a way to eventually lead a straight life. In fact, even the cop who ends up catching him feels guilty about it at the last minute. Our interest is quickly gained because we have a main character we really care about going to jail, and we soon find out that it was all a set-up by his boss. Our empathy tank is full.
In jail, life goes from bad to worse until he accidently takes an MPH drug that allows him to move around others as if they are standing still: He will find out he can outrun cars on the highway; he can run up the outside of a skyscraper; and more importantly at the moment, he can just walk out of and away from prison and be miles away before anybody even notices. To those looking at him, it is as if he has vanished in the blink of an eye. He soon seeks out his girlfriend and best friend, gives them some MPH, and they start amassing a fortune.
Though the main plot is straightforward, there are many surprises, particularly at the end, that make it an incredibly fun book and will make it a hit movie if it’s filmed well. The main complication in the story is that MPH was used one time before, thirty years ago, by a man who was caught by the authorities and imprisoned below ground in a secret facility. The agent assigned to this man’s case befriends the criminal over the next thirty years, even though he refuses to tell the secret of MPH or who his connections are (or who they were thirty years ago). This agent, nearing retirement, finally gets a chance to solve the mystery of MPH when Roscoe and his friends start their robbing spree. Surprisingly, even his friend the prisoner agrees to help catch these young people.
The book is a fun, fast ride, and there are real surprises as the story comes to a close. Most importantly for a high-speed story, the art does justice to the action: Visually, the artist adds the wow factor. Another plus is that MPH is a book that stands alone as a graphic novel, so you won’t be left on a cliffhanger waiting for volume two. It’s about a 4.5/5 in terms of blockbuster writing, but I would have liked the background of the characters and their situation fleshed out a little more, so in the end, I give the book a 4/5. However, if you mainly want to lose yourself in a good book with little thought needed, Millar’s MPH is certainly a book you should pick up soon.
It’s a shame that Holloywood adaptations of Millar’s work fall so flat–the man really does know how to write in the “summer blockbuster” pace for his comics.
Glad to see you back, Brad!