Monday, 6 July 2015


Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo MPH (2015)
I just can't stop buying these Mark Millar collections. There's something addictive about his writing, the sharply sarcastic tone, the occasional splash of the bold and crass offered without either apology or irony. Maybe it's simply that he puts a bit of elbow grease into the job, creating stories with some purpose beyond good guys catching bank robbers - subtext and theme without anything so self-conscious as the kind of overly-laboured and increasingly generic layering which you'll probably find in even Scrooge McDuck comics these days, if such things still exist. Of course, as has been noted on one or two occasions, Millar has been known to shoot himself in the foot from time to time with touches of shock effect which miss the tone and end up being simply repulsive, or at least no more meaningful than a meme involving tits posted in the self-consciously wacky section of Happily MPH steers well clear of the usual rape threats, or even anything in that general and contentious direction, so maybe the lad is beginning to learn from his mistakes, or just getting old and mellow. In any case, it leaves us with something which ably demonstrates the strength of Millar's storytelling, and specifically without the safety net of the spectacularly stomach-churning pasted over any narrative hole. Graphic novel is an overused term, but for once it applies. MPH really does feel like a novel.

Of course, it's essentially a superhero tale spun around a drug which turns the user into either the Flash or Quicksilver, depending on one's frame of reference, but it doesn't feel like a superhero tale. In fact it's closer to Bonnie and Clyde or maybe Robin Hood, framing its supposedly criminal anti-heroes simply as people who happen to have received the shitty end of the capitalist stick in expressly Marxist terms; and as such these people are generally quite likeable without the need for any heavy-handed moralising or overstated pathos. I've a feeling this may be a first for Mark Millar.

Even better is that he could have just left it there, with the karmic balance left nice and simple by giving the po' folks their mountain of stolen gold and luxury apartments, but instead he follows the idea through to a very satisfactory conclusion. We already know that money is the root of all evil, but the idea nevertheless comes as a welcome surprise in this story, and without anyone having anything chopped off whilst some other guy films it.

I'm generally well-disposed towards Mark Millar regardless of how much he sucks when he gets it wrong, but I have to say, MPH is more or less perfect.

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