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‘MPH #5’ concludes the series with a flurry of plot contrivances

‘MPH #5’ concludes the series with a flurry of plot contrivances


MPH #5
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Duncan Fegredo
Colors by Peter Doherty and Mike Spicer
Published by Image Comics

In MPH #5, Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo turn to time travel to fix everyone’s problems and give every semi-likable character some semblance of a happy ending. The issue begins with Chevy, who seemed like the de facto hero for most the series, completely misusing his super speed powers and attack not only the government, but also his friends Rosa and Roscoe as well as random bystanders. However, the possible lesson of the corrupting power of wealth is all but brushed aside midway through the comic, and Chevy ends up looking like a one-dimensional psychopath, who makes even the jowly Fed Agent Cutler look like a sympathetic (and even cool) character.

Duncan Fegredo’s gritty, grimy art style fits the subject matter and ultraviolence of the first part of MPH #5 as he marries the speed lines and negative space/lightning crackles of the best Flash comics with figures that look as ugly and flawed as their characters. The characters don’t resemble the god-like metahumans drawn by Frank Quitely in Jupiter’s Legacy or Bryan Hitch in The Ultimates, but just regular human beings, wrinkles and all. This way of drawing reflects the basically criminal activities of the protagonists of MPH, who begin by stealing from the wealthy corporate overlords to help people affected by crime and recession in Detroit, but end up living the high life. It allows readers to still have a shred of sympathy for the characters as well, except Chevy, who starts impaling soldiers with their own guns even though he hasn’t (openly) killed anyone to this point.

Until the plot starts to unravel with random flashbacks, old characters seemingly out of nowhere, and a lot of timey-wimey baloney that puts Matt Smith’s last Doctor Who episodes to shame, MPH #5 is slightly riveting. Millar truly has a gift for writing sociopathic superpowered mayhem as Chevy goes from being unhinged anti-hero to a menace to the entire world in the space of a dozen pages. His dialogue gets progressively more hateful, and Fegredo focuses panels on his angry face and out of control speed lines compared to the composure of Cutler and Springfield and the fear on Roscoe and Rosa’s faces. Fegredo even does a decent job transferring bullet time from film to comics as he varies the size of the bullet as it travels from panel to panel.

However, all this technical excellence and emphatic (if far from nuanced) characterization is all completely put to waste as Millar spends the second act of the comic completely destroying the already shaky connection between superpowers and addiction to wrap up his story. Fegredo’s art gets more cinematic as this plot progresses, and colorist Peter Doherty gives the flashback scenes an “old car ad” finish. Mark Millar even makes a genuine effort to give MPH #5 an optimistic ending in the vein of some of his recent series, like Starlight and Kick-Ass 3. However, this ending doesn’t feel earned, and MPH #5 is a flat finish to what seemed to be a miniseries with a promising twist on speedster characters