Mark Millar

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MPH 4 (November 2014)

MPH #4

There’s quite a bit of talking in this comic. Not just the lead characters, who talk a whole bunch, but also the government guys out to catch the lead characters. There’s also a revelation scene, which Millar doesn’t do particularly well. It’s a talking heads issue and Millar is just dumping exposition to set up for the finish.

He opens the issue with the secret government agency explaining most of the backstory to the drug and to the mysterious prisoner, who’s been so unimportant he’s barely memorable. Millar plays some tricks, since he’s dealing with fortune telling and, presumably, next issue will have a big surprise or two, but the problem with MPH is the characters.

They aren’t just unsympathetic at this point, they’re annoying and tedious. Millar didn’t set them up strong enough and without development–especially after all the talking–they’re just dragging the comic down.

Too bad.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editors, Jennifer Lee and Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

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A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 6 (October 2014)

Starlight #6

You know, I hate Mark Millar. I hate how he was able to goof around with Starlight–not just drag out the series, but be really late on the last issue–and how he’s still able to deliver exactly what he needs to deliver on this finale.

Maybe it works better because he’s already disappointed in other issues, so when this one comes through, it works out. But I think it’s more because Millar actually understands how to write mainstream heroic moments and he just lets himself get too confused, too commercial. Starlight is definitely mainstream, definitely commercial, but it’s also got Millar taking the time with his protagonist.

Even though he’s been through a problematic six issue limited series, Duke McQueen’s a great character and Millar wants to celebrate him–and the time the reader’s spent with him.

So it’s cheap and easy, but it sure does taste good.

A- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

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MPH 3 (September 2014)

MPH #3

Will the real Mark Millar please stand up…

After a couple relatively good issues, MPH starts to have some major problems. First and foremost, Millar has given up on characters for this issue. He has his protagonists robbing banks and sharing the takings with the people of Detroit, but the characters have no personalities. Oh, the one guy is jealous of the guy and the girl, but it’s very hard to care.

Presumably, Millar thought he did enough character work in the previous two issues to establish the characters but he didn’t. The comic is written, very much, for the trade–and that trade is written, very much, to be sold to Hollywood. This issue is all events, all gags, all gimmicks. The ending is idiotic.

Millar has a lot of ideas–and Fegredo does a fabulous job visualizing them–he just doesn’t have a story. He’s generating a property.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editors, Jennifer Lee and Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 5 (August 2014)

Starlight #5

I didn’t realize Starlight was a limited series. I guess it makes sense, given the creative team, but Millar sure didn’t pace it well for a finite run. Subplots would have been cool. I just thought he was padding it out.

This issue is all action. There’s a minute amount of character development for Duke, but it’s really just old man action movie stuff and it’s fine. Millar writes it well enough and Parlov draws it beautifully. It’s too bad Millar’s plotting isn’t better because most of the action takes place in a gas fog and all the activity is in long shot.

The tediously setup cliffhangers have the supporting cast in shackles and Duke on his way to save them. Duke surviving an off-panel death might be a spoiler but Millar doesn’t actually present it as a possibility. It’s a narrative trick.

They’re all tricks, but effectively executed.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

mph

MPH 2 (June 2014)

MPH #2

It’s bad, but I sort of wanted Millar to flop on the second issue of MPH. Not for any reason other than his adherence to the eighties multi-racial movie gang. He’s got them in here; nothing but it seems.

But he doesn’t flop. Even without doing some fantastic super-speed moments–there’s only one–the issue proves incredibly entertaining and Millar manages to get in some good character work. He’s got a new approach to how the characters experience the drug. The world’s on pause around their adventures. It takes him a while to get to this device, with the guy from the last issue zooming in and out of his friends’ lives.

MPH then has the problem of seeming too impulsive and I was ready for it to flop because of Millar’s brevity. He doesn’t skip the responsibility though, he owns it.

Additionally, it doesn’t hurt the Fegredo art is absolutely gorgeous.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorists, Peter Doherty and Mike Spicer; letterer, Doherty; editor, Jennifer Lee; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 4 (June 2014)

Starlight #4

I don't know if Starlight is exactly deceptive, but Millar does make you forget he's up to his old content tricks. There's just enough humor, character revelations (I was going to say development, but not really) and nods to the Flash Gordon roots of the project to move things along. Not to mention the Parlov art. There's some phenomenal Parlov art this issue.

But then, as the issue wraps up, it becomes clear Millar only really resolved his cliffhanger from the previous issue and set Duke up for the next big cliffhanger and the next big opportunity for fantastic Parlov art. There's nothing wrong with that approach but if Starlight is just going to be comic to read for the art… maybe Millar could talk less.

Because he doesn't really have anything to say. He hints at having something to say, but then avoids it.

Even hampered, the comic's successful.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

mph

MPH 1 (May 2014)

MPH #1

Leave it to Mark Millar to screw it up when he's got a good thing going. Even without the terrible soft cliffhanger, MPH does have some fantastic art from Duncan Fegredo. Fantastic enough to probably make the comic worth a look even if it didn't have a serviceable script.

There are all the standard Millar problems. It's too self-aware, the pop culture references are too forced, probably a few other things but I ignored them. However, Millar does write a good first person narration for his protagonist. It's some small time crook who ends up in prison for a relatively small crime and then gets superpowers.

The superpowers come from a pill called MPH. There's going to be an idiotic explanation for it, which the soft cliffhanger foreshadows. Still, the way Millar shows the guy's experience is fantastic.

The comic's predictably problematic (given Millar) but it's better than expected.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editor, Jennifer Lee; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 3 (May 2014)

Starlight #3

For the third issue of Starlight, things are coming together. Well, not so much things, but Millar’s writing. He’s pacing out the narrative a lot better. There are probably six or seven scenes this issue and they’re mostly good scenes. The cliffhanger is a little abrupt and he spends too much time with the lame villain, but the stuff with Duke is all pretty great.

Except maybe how Millar resolves the big action sequence. There’s this fantastic fight scene with Duke taking on a bunch of bad guys–Parlov does beautiful work with the figures, but also with how he lays out the panels on the page–except then Millar remembers Duke is an old guy and has to get real. The real part’s problematic.

And the followup with Duke; not great. But otherwise, all of Duke’s scenes are great.

It’s a well-executed comic book. Parlov’s abilities outweigh Millar’s lack of imagination.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 2 (April 2014)

Starlight #2

I was expecting a lot more from Starlight. This new development where series totally fall off after strong openings didn’t seem like something Millar would fall for, but this issue suggests otherwise. Duke argues with a kid from the planet he saved about whether he’s going back to save them again.

Of course he’s going to go back. Otherwise there’s not a series.

About the only time the comic shows any signs of life is when Duke says they’re going to show off the spaceship to all the people who said he was crazy. And then Millar fails to deliver anything.

So it’s a redundant, predictable talking heads book. Without very interesting art. Parlov doesn’t do a lot of backgrounds and his panels are simplistic. There’s an overemphasis on the kid, who’s not particularly interesting, and most of the moodiness about Duke’s solitude is gone.

Starlight’s dimming. It’s too bad too.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 1 (March 2014)

Sl1

Starlight is not an original idea. Goran Parlov’s composition even mimics The Incredibles when establishing the protagonist, one Duke McQueen. He’s not a John Wayne character, he’s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Except he’s gotten old. His kids are selfish little pricks–again, not original–but he’s pushing through.

He’s also exceptionally well-established in just one issue. Mark Millar uses flashbacks to his adventuring to show who he was and then little scenes in the present to show how he hasn’t changed too much.

Is Duke going to go and save the galaxy again? One hopes–oh, wait a second, didn’t Garth Ennis do Dan Dare with this treatment. Like I said, not original.

But it’s earnestly done. Parlov’s art is fantastic. The fantastical stuff gets pushed further thanks to Parlov’s realistically minded but not realistic stylings. So obvious the Earth stuff works.

It’s light reading, but wonderfully so.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 86 (January 2006)

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Maybe not everything should get an Ultimate version.

For example, Bendis opens the issue with Ultimate Damage Control. Does there need to be an Ultimate Damage Control… probably not. But Bendis uses it for exposition and to frame his flashback. It’s okay enough.

Except the arc’s not about them, it’s about Ultimate Silver Sable, who’s apparently a corporate espionage person. Does she need an Ultimate version? Hard to say, but definitely not the way Bendis writes this issue.

She has all these morons working for her (the Wild Pack, I think) and Bendis is clearly enjoying writing their dialogue… but it’s all for a useless comic. He’s impressing himself again, which never goes well for the series.

The twist at the end, which should be played for laughs, ends up being vicious. The arc’s a misfire so far.

And the Ultimate Vision backup? Pointless but inoffensive writing; truly hideous art.

CREDITS

Silver Sable, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Justin Ponsor. Ultimate Vision, Visions, Part One of Six; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith. Letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 171 (October 1996)

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Millar hits a home run with the final issue.

He ties up all sorts of things, the little things he’s done throughout his run, the bigger things no one ever could have done without his arc. He rewards the faithful reader, with more than a few nods to memorable events in long ago issues.

The reason it works is because of Millar’s narration. He writes Alec as he changes from powerful elemental to ultimate elemental to whatever comes next. There are little tricks he does–putting some scientific terminology into the narration, letting thoughts pass without ever coming to the fore–but he accomplishes something wonderful.

Hester, DeMulder and colorist Tatjana Wood (who’s been on the book from the start) really come through here too. Millar’s got to write the unimaginable, but they have to illustrate it.

The narrative’s miraculously plotted for the reader, but never feels compromised.

It’s magnificent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, The End; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 170 (September 1996)

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Poor Chester and Liz, they only get a page together. But Millar does give Chester just about the only joke in the entire issue.

It’s Alec–turned into a human Alec Holland again–versus the Word. The Word is the embodiment of God’s power (they call him the Voice here, probably as not to alienate any readers). But there’s a lot with Woodrue and all the experimenting his plans on doing to Tefè. She’s seven, it turns out, which means Millar did play a whole lot with the internal timeline logic.

Then there’s some stuff with Abby and Constantine, who are always interesting together. Millar does well with their scene, which is rather important because it’s unclear how honest Alec’s being in his scene.

There’s quite a bit about Tefè’s new origin. It’s Millar’s biggest change. He works hard to sell it and… for the most part, achieves that goal.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Five: Apocalypse Now; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 169 (August 1996)

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It’s the big Constantine issue. Oddly, Millar hasn’t really given his own new characters much to do. Instead he relies on the classics to wrap up the comic. It’s appropriate and all, but one might think a writer would be selfish. If Millar’s writing this finale dispassionately, he’s a master faker.

Besides some subterfuge on Constantine’s part, there’s absolutely no action this issue. It’s all talking heads, whether Constantine and Alec or Abby discovering what’s become of Tefé. The Abby scenes with Tefé are better than most of Constantine and Alec’s sequence, though the finish for that one is superior.

Millar has a great cliffhanger for the issue too. The conversation between Alec and Constantine never really references their past relationship (Millar flashes back to a different point in Constantine’s career) but just has the gravity of two people who’ve known each other for a long time.

As expected, excellent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Four: The Judas Tree; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.