1986. After cutting a path of destruction across the American Midwest while running at super-speed, the world’s first superhuman disappears just as quickly as he appeared. When he is taken into custody by the local sheriff’s office – just before the army makes him go away for good – a mysterious pill bottle is found on his person… a bottle labeled MPH.
Fast forward 28 years. Roscoe’s a Detroit boy who has worked for local drug boss Samurai Hal since he was 12 years old. Smarter than the average thug and a fellow follower of Samurai Hal’s philosophy of positive thinking and the laws of attraction, Roscoe has plans to bank what he can of his ill-gotten gains, head out west with his girlfriend Rosa and get into real-estate flipping. A shame Roscoe is not smart to see it coming when Samurai Hal sets him up to take the fall for his dealings and sets his sights on claiming Rosa for himself.
This information, coming as it does after Roscoe blows any chance he has to turn State’s Evidence to help The Feds go after his boss, is enough to crush even the hopeful Roscoe’s soul. He finally takes a prison drug-dealer’s offer to seek oblivion in a strange new pill labeled MPH. The drug gives Roscoe the power of super-speed and a chance at revenge against his ex-boss.
Mark Millar gained a goodly amount of publicity for MPH (which has already been optioned for a movie adaptation) long before it hit the stands this week. Claiming that he was inspired by a recent trip through Detroit and the fact that Superman was originally created in-part to address the societal problems caused by The Great Depression, Millar said that he would be addressing the current problems of the city of Detroit in this comic. He further said that he would be sending copies of this book to President Obama and every Senator in Washington DC.
Unfortunately, the description of MPH as solicited bears no resemblance to the story contained within this first issue, nor is there any discussion of societal ills. There is no group of “four 19-year-old Detroit kids who stumble across a new street drug that gives them super-speed… (who) use their new-found powers to take down bankers, corporations and crooked politicians.” There is one petty thug with delusions of grandeur, who is using his new-found powers to seek revenge. That may change in future issues but that seems unlikely given Millar’s oeuvre.
MPH fits perfectly into the dark world view of the Millarverse, as seen in Wanted and Kick-Ass. As in those stories, Millar glamorizes those who live free of morality and depicts those who wish to make the world a better place as foolish. Roscoe is established as an optimist only so that Millar can make him look like a complete idiot for believing in “honor among thieves” and push him into abandoning idealism for revenge.
There is no hope in this world. There is no such thing as basic decency. And any spark of light that does exist, does so only so that Millar can extinguish it. Preferably by pissing on it.
The artwork by Duncan Fegredo is as dark and ugly as Millar’s script. In this sense, the artwork is a perfect match for the story thematically. Unfortunately, there’s little that is aesthetically appealing about Fegredo’s style in general and his work here in specific.
Millar’s fans and the movie executives he seems to be writing for exclusively will probably enjoy MPH. The rest of us, who enjoy stories about likable characters who act in a heroic manner, would do better to stay away.