Advance Review: ‘MPH’ is starting to get really good with issue #2

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

I first started writing about Mark Millar’s MPH in April here when its advertising made me question the comic’s racial sensitivity. Since then I have eased up on my position on the book but have vowed to keep reviewing the series to make sure that my assumptions were mostly unfounded.

This issue starts off with Rosa’s brother “Baseball” holding something down (In this case guns) for an area gang called King Nitty. Here we get a real life talk about why some young men and women join gangs. Our homie Roscoe is out of jail and heads out to deliver some well needed pay back to Hal, the man who set him up. After an impressive display of speed, intellect and creativity Roscoe gets even in spades. He meets up with Rosa and Chevy to show them his newfound power and allow them to join him in a crime spree that aims to change the American landscape and class system in Millarworld — potentially forever. The last page of the comic hints at an organization that has been watching for super-humans since the first appearance of the mysterious speedster who tore through the shopping mall in issue one.

This issue was much better than issue one for several reasons. Firstly we got a better glimpse of Roscoe’s newfound power in action and the ways in which his speed works. Duncan Fegredo does a great job of illustrating these split-second scenes without losing the reader in the process.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, I must now take this time to give credit where credit is due: Millar’s vision of what should be done to change the American class landscape is quite refreshing and I am extremely surprised this level of social commentary from the Kick-Ass writer. Rosa and her aunt’s discussion about Baseball joining up with a gang– that being a mode of survival for himself and many youths (mainly those of color)  in America’s inner cities — was intriguing.

What’s, more her aunt’s response about Rosa’s brother dying to protect his gang’s turf can be seen as a symptom of generational poverty. The discussion between Chevy and Rosa about how the city lacks even basic working street lights is another discussion in which Millar subtly casts doubts on the American dream.

Roscoe’s planned revenge on the banks that helped cause the country’s recession will most likely throw more shade at the country’s ideologies and manner of governing as a whole. I’m slowly starting to understand this series — or at least get an idea of what it’s about and I’ll stick around until it’s over to see if it doesn’t teach us something about ourselves and the country.

Comics in Color Week 3

This week I’m gonna provide you with a buffet of black comics from horror to historical fiction, to sate your pallet and expand your options.

One Nation: Safe House

Written by Jason Reeves, art by Deon De Lange & Luis Guerrero

133 Art gives us military-grade superheroics with this “found footage” installment of the sure-to-be epic series. Here we’re behind the eyes of a camera as it changes hands during the Gulf War. Panels are done in a sort of Cloverfield style, complete with shaky frames and abrupt jump cuts. I was surprised that this could be done well in a comic and it reminds me of Brian Michael Bendis’ use of individual character interviews in the New Avengers, which come straight from reality TV.

I liked this issue quite a bit because the “found footage” format makes for great mythbuilding material. If you want to create an air of mystery around a hero who wants to remain anonymous, it makes sense to have him capturing footage of himself, similar to how Batman used to confiscate any footage of himself.

The art remains top-notch even in this format — not losing a step — and the colors are still entirely complementary to the pencils. Check this out at 133 Art.com and keep an eye out for this imprint.


Orison vol. 1

Written by Bradley Golden, art by Matt Santorelli, lettering by Chris Allen

3 stars

I love H.P. Lovecraft-style horror, so when I picked up a copy of Orison I was presently surprised at the remote mountain setting because that reminded me of At the Mountains of Madness and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

This comic opens with a team of mountain climbers excavating a frozen cavern only to lose radio contact with their base camp. A gruesome blood bath and the hunt for answers follow.

The story starts off fast-paced but makes the mistake of slowing down for the sake of establishing characters. I love character development more than any element of storytelling; however, the scenes chosen to do that take the reader outside of the original story.

The art in the first half the comic seems purposefully unpleasing and grotesque — similar to the first issue of Sandman — in order to establish the horror tone of the comic. The next two chapters switch to a more mainstream style which works for the continuation of the issue but could have been better.

What I enjoy about this comic is the tone set in the first chapter, I wasn’t completely scared but the element of suspense was definitely present. You can pick this comic up at Second Sight Studios


Sons of Fate Vol. 1

Written, created, illustrated and lettered by Jean-Paul Deshong

3.5 stars

Very few people know this about me, but when I was young I wanted to be a Samurai. I purchased a Shinai, studied Kendo and read the Hagakure, so I was overjoyed to see this comic, about an African boy who becomes a samurai, called Sons of Fate.

The story opens up with a group of samurai retainers fending off bandits before a shipwreck occurs that kills all but one of them. This lone survivor washes up on the shores of Nigeria in west Africa, where a young boy drags him to shore. From here the scene jumps to the samurai’s family back in Japan, where his son practices to follow in his father’s footsteps. The son shows some resentment towards the absent patriarch though he knows his father’s duty is first to their country and then to his family. Throughout the story the samurai trains the child who saved his life in the way of the sword until they are parted and the boy has to go out into the world.

This comic reminded me of the story reminded me of the manga Color of Rage, which features a black samurai as the main character, and another manga called Knights.

What I liked about this comic was how well-researched the code of Bushido and Samurai traditions were, there were little things here like preparedness for death that let me know some study went into this. The problem I had was that the Nigerian people in the story, who are of the Yoruba clan, seemed as if they
had no fighting culture of their own. That simply isn’t true.

The art isn’t amazing but I always have respect for a creator who does everything on his own.

You can pick this up this comic at Blackberryjuice.net.

 

 

Review: ‘M.P.H.’: Shock and awe seems to be Millar’s cup of tea

Last month Mark Millar and Image Comics released a promo for the upcoming Millarworld story MPH. I took the advertising to task because it appeared racially insensitive, as I mistook the main character for a black male, and for that I have to excuse myself.

I wasn’t wrong on the part of racial insensitivity as the main character was indeed a man of color, a Latino gent by the name of Roscoe Rodriguez. Most of my issue stemmed from the way the comic was presented, which reminds me of South Central, where a man involved in illegal activity is sent to jail and those he thought were his friends attempt to usurp his life.This past week I picked up the first issue of the comic to see if I was right on any of my other assumptions.

MPH

The issues actually starts up where Kick Ass 2 left off, literally the last scene in the comic, with a man tearing down a stretch of forest at insane speeds. He blasts through a mall and completely wrecks the spot before being caught by the cops. We jump to the present where our homie Roscoe is getting a job from a dealer he frequently does drops for. It is here that he gets set up or knocked by the feds and is sent to jail for a lengthy bid.

It is here that we learn he was set up by the same man who has been “employing” him so long, all because he wants to sleep with Roscoe’s girlfriend.  After Roscoe finds out and is thrown into a spiral of depression, he is given a new drug by his cellmate, which gives him a seizure — or so we think — as his world is sped up to the point where everything else has stopped. This is where the story begins and hopefully where things will get clearer.

Okay so the part you’ve all been waiting for: did I love it or hate it? Was I right? Was it racist or do I have to eat a nice steaming plate of my own words?

MPH had aspects of what I’d assumed I’d see in a story like this, I expected to see drugs and jail cells. What I didn’t expect to see was a main character who has a corkboard with his hopes and dreams pasted on it, but it makes sense in relation to Millar’s view of the American Dream. I didn’t find anything that was overtly offensive about the comic itself as compared to the marketing. Even the color choices for the initial promos were misleading.

That being said, this book wasn’t impressive at all, I expected to see something in terms of plot or storytelling mechanics that made me go “wow, that’s new or didn’t see that coming”  –something like what Grant Morrison did on Batman and Robin, an addiction passed through illness. Everytime I hear about a Millarworld story it’s spoken about as if it will change the game in some way and while Kick Ass did seem to help inspire everyday people to dress up in costumes to report crimes,  it didn’t do much except adapt well to movies and shock people.

Shock and awe seems to be Millar’s cup of tea, but it makes me fear for this book in terms of what kind of shock treatment he will use this time (we don’t need another gang rape or anything like that at all) I am thankful that the book wasn’t offensive like I expected it to be but I’m not terribly excited to read any further. However I will do so, to monitor how the series progresses.