By: Mark Millar (writer/creator), Duncan Fegredo (art/creator), Peter Doherty (colors/letters)

The Story: An honorable criminal gets into a drug that causes him to move with superhuman speed.

Review (with SPOILERS): I really find Mark Millar to be an interesting writer.  More than almost any other writer I can think of, he has a very clear goal with his stories.  Things like Wanted/Kick Ass/Nemesis are him doing market research on the limits of good taste.  Don’t listen to the guys who say he’s just trying to get “cheap shocks”.  People who say that are dumb.  In those stories, he’s figuring out where the boundary between edgy and tasteful is so that he can write stories like The Secret Service where there are still some edgy things, but the volume is dialed down to 9/10.  And, it allows him to also write stories that are safe as hell like Superior/Starlight where he isn’t going anywhere near controversy.  Of course, all of the properties are intended to be developed into movies at some point and while reading comics that are “failed screenplays” is annoying, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with developing a story with multiple mediums in mind.  Money is money…

MPH is very much in the vein of Superior or Starlight.  This is Millar turned down to about 6/10 on the shock dial.  And that’s because he has a decent premise for a PG13 movie.  In this first issue, we meet a small-time criminal.  His buddies are a little unsavory, but he’s just trying to save a little money so that he can go “legit” and get into real estate.  He’s kinda like Stringer Bell from The Wire: the criminal activity is a means to an end.  And this guy isn’t doing anything horrid.  Just some minor drug running.  No murders, tortures, etc… And he doesn’t use the drugs.  He’s even got a cute girlfriend.  But, everything goes to hell in a handbasket when he is set-up by his drug-runner boss and sent to prison.  There he gets depressed and uses a drug called MPH to escape from prison, basically the drug turns him into The Flash and he walks right out of the place while the guards are basically standing still.

So, that’s the premise.  It’s simple: Honest criminal, framed for a crime, seeking revenge against the guy who set him up and stole his girlfriend.  We’ve seen that story a lot.  The only wrinkle is that this time the honest criminal has superspeed, and that superspeed comes from a pill.  You can make a movie out of that.  It remains to be seen whether it is a great movie or not, but it has potential.  It also remains to be seen whether it is a great comic or not.  It probably won’t be great, but it will probably be solid.  I think the only Millar comic I’ve loathed was Nemesis and that’s because Nemesis was supposed to be an experiment to see how far he could push before he bothered even people like me.  All of Millar’s other work is reliable and solid.  Plus, I enjoy watching a writer actively experiment with stuff rather than doing the same old stuff over and over.

The other attraction to any Millar work is the art.  He sells comics and writes limited series, so he has no trouble attracting A-list talent to his comics because artists like to make money and not be tied down forever on a single project.  Duncan Fegredo is really sharp.  He spent so long on Hellboy – which isn’t really my thing – that I wasn’t familiar with his work.  But I’d heard people gush about him and the fuss is warranted.  This is some exquisite cartooning.  There’s nothing in this story that requires showing off, just the little stuff that make you sympathetic to our main character so that we think he’s an HONEST criminal and not just a thug with super-speed.  It’s sharp stuff.

Conclusion: Who knows if it’ll be great, but it is a very solid start and it doesn’t have any of those edgy Millar tropes that bother some people.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell