Page 45 Review by Stephen
Oh, look at that cover!
Cool and contemporary with big, bold primary colours. Now that's how you stand out on our shelves!
It's a joy to see Duncan Fegredo back in the real world again - well, something more approximating it than HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS. That was an ethereal beauty and Fegredo was perfect for a series starring a big red guy with enormous hands. The hands!
However, it's the cool and contemporary I love most about him: the arched expressions and Rodin-like wrists, often at angles in TALES FROM THE CLERKS, for example. There's a gloriously subtle sequence kicked off on page nine in prison when Chevy looks away from a bald, bearded biker dude just as that dude takes an interest in him. It's a perfect panel, all the important elements including their stares composed along the lines radiating from its vanishing point, far right.
Three panels later and the biker dude is staring towards the vanishing point and the angle of the eye, if you look very closely, is now aimed at Roscoe's girlfriend, Rosa. Uh-oh!
Let's pull back...
In 1986 the first and only sighting of a superhuman occurred late at night after he "ran out of juice" in Missouri. Rocketing uncontrollably at such an impossible speed across multiple States that he left a tornado-level trail of destruction in his wake, ploughing up compacted earth and asphalt, bursting through buildings and shattering glass, Mr Springfield staggered to a halt and was promptly arrested, drugged and locked away in solitary confinement by the United States Army.
That was it for superhumans for nearly thirty years.
Now it's 2014 and young, ambitious, positive and forward-thinking Roscoe, a courier in bankrupt Detroit, has a shattering experience of his own. On a drug delivery he's set up by his boss to take a fall with the Feds so that self-same boss, Samurai Hal - owner of The Joyside Lounge strip lounge - can have a clear crack at his girlfriend. Which brings us back to prison.
Whatever he dealt, Roscoe wouldn't even take aspirin so he stays equally clean in jail. He stays positive too, thinking up all manner of ways of legitimately reducing his sentence. Until he finds out the truth, is goaded one step too far by the biker dude and - a stint in solitary later - is offered a pill stamped "MPH". And he takes it.
MPH stands for Miles Per Hour and, boy, does that change everything!
When you can cross from the East to West Coast in four minutes while time stands still for everyone else, getting out of jail free is a cinch. Getting even is easier still.
Back at The Joyside Lounge:
"These bills floating around you is all the cash you got left, man...
"Any money in the bank I just transferred to a local drugs charity to make up for all those innocent lives you destroyed...
"Oh, I'm not done yet. Because I also just cancelled your home, building and life insurance policies. Can you guess why I'd do a thing like that?
"That gas you can smell is the pipes I bust open...
"The lighter I borrowed from Stacy behind the bar."
Bam! Bam! Boom!
Each panel lasts as long as he likes for Roscoe who moves faster than lightning. To a horrified Hal they last but a second.
I love that Mark Millar even thinks of the insurance policies on top of the immediate destruction. He's also thought long and hard about where to set this. Detroit - previously known as at the car capital of the world - has indeed been ditched, as derelict as Baltimore on television's The Wire. Here's Chevy with Rosa who has been trying to protect her brother Baseball from getting involved with the local, machine-gun-running local gang:
"What else can he do, Rosa? I know he's smart, but it's not just jobs we're missing now. Half the street lights don't even work. What kind of city can't afford to light its own streets? It's all going to Hell, girl. I'm telling you. America is fucked."
"Oh, America's doing fine, Chevy. It's just us who've been left behind."
At which point Roscoe shows up in the blink of an eye with a wink in his eye.
"Which is why the three of us are moving to California."
What in the world do you suppose happens next?
Okay, I think I've given you all you need to know, summarised as this:
Mark Millar doesn't write any old meta-human comics. They always have something socio-political to say. Pop him into our search engine and you'll get comics like SECRET SERVICE: KINGSMAN (which I always sell as "What if James Bond came from Peckham?"), SUPERIOR (a Faustian pact with a monkey at the bottom of your bed), Marvel's superhero CIVIL WAR (gun control represented in terms of super-powers) and most recently JUPITER'S LEGACY which, while being blisteringly pugilistic and a great big family fuck-up, has at its heart our wider economic crashes.
He's good. He's very good, and he thinks outside the box. I can't think of a single Mark Millar title which is just a big punch-up. Please do pop him into our search engine. I think I've reviewed every title the man has ever written.
Then I give you artist Duncan Fegredo:
When the three of them get together - Roscoe, Rosa, Chevy and soon to be joined by Baseball - all necking MPH then you will see such wonders galore! What does the world look like when time stops still with four rogues running amok? Rain drops, for instance...?
Duncan Fegredo is an absolute wonder at reaction and glee and - accompanied by colourist Peter Doherty - there is so much light and, yes, colour in this comic! Duncan's depiction of body language is virtually unparalleled in comics: any comics in any genre. His expressions are exquisite and his gesticulations rival those of Will Eisner. He is one of comics' greatest communicators.
So what would you do with a vial of MPH pills that could last you a week? A vial of pills that would give you super-fast speed while the world dozed off in your wake? What would you do and could you ever give it up?
Well, this is what they do and those who are in power are not very happy.
They're not very happy at all!
P.S. I may have misled you a little, but you won't be alone. Any misdirection is strictly in keeping with what happens within. Infer what you will but of course it's more complex than this. One of the most unexpectedly delightful endings in comics.